News Update

Best and brightest in STEM under 16 include 3 California students

Through a nationwide search, The 74, an education news site, has named this year’s 16 students under 16 who excel in science, technology, engineering and math. Three of those brilliant STEM students live in California.

The independent panel of judges used three criteria: creativity — “the ability to design something new and disruptive”; change-making — “the capacity to inspire change in others and within their community”’; and resilience – “the ability to persevere by using challenges as opportunities for growth and move forward despite difficulties along the way.”

You can read about all 16 here. Here’s a quick look at the three Californians.

Helena Donato-Sapp, 12, who attends the Westerly School of Long Beach, has published scholarly pieces in peer-reviewed journals and is a regular speaker in college teacher credentialing programs where she talks about the importance of young people tackling tough topics. Born at 27 weeks, she had heart surgery at 10 days old and medical issues early in life. Her current research topics include reflections and research on Black girlhood and disability justice. Because of her own learning disabilities, she has leaned toward technology and her love of film to show her teachers deeper comprehension of her content.

After recovering from being hospitalized twice for exposure to life-threatening food allergies to eggs, nuts and seafood, Zidaan Kapoor, 15, of Redwood City, researched food allergy anxiety and spent the bulk of this year developing an app, Fight Fears, to address mental health issues around food allergies and intolerances. Fight Fears aims to help young people tackle their food anxieties with visual animations, interactive games and progress checks to tackle the stress of eating out. Zidaan, who is home-schooled,  funded the app with income he generated from a math and chess tutoring business that he started in the seventh grade for students ranging in age from 3 to 18.

In 2020, Cloris Shi, 15, who attends Troy High School in Fullerton, used machine learning methods to analyze the mutations of the receptor-binding domain of six different coronaviruses. For her project, in which she created an algorithm able to predict genetic linkages between species of coronavirus as well as variants within a species, she was awarded a scholarship by the American Association for Clinical Chemistry. Cloris also founded her school’s chapter of STEAM for All, which fosters interest in STEAM among elementary and middle school students. Cloris’s club has more than 200 fully trained volunteers engaging 3,000 student participants.


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