Marietta 14-year-old Samarth Mahapatra was one of ten finalists named in 3M’s Young Scientist Challenge this month.

Mahapatra, a rising 9th-grader at Wheeler Magnet School, is in the running for a $25,000 prize and the title ‘America’s Top Young Scientist.’

The challenge asks students in grades 5-8 to submit a 1-2 minute video identifying a solution to an everyday problem. Mahapatra’s solution is a program that aids people with visual impairments while they are cooking.

“I wanted to solve a problem that may not be recognized,” Mahapatra said. “Everyone has a kitchen and I can help people with vision issues.”

Mahapatra’s great-aunt was the inspiration for his project.

“She has severe vision impairment but she loves to cook, and I love to try new cuisines,” he said.

Mahapatra said he started to learn to program in third grade. He’s always been interested in science and tech, so when he came across the Young Scientist Challenge online he decided to enter.

“I was really blown away by the opportunities that 3M and Discover Education offer to young scientists,” Mahapatra said.

Each finalist is paired with a 3M scientist to serve as their mentor while they work on developing their project. Mahapatra is paired with Dr. Döne Demirgöz, a research specialist in the Corporate Research Systems Lab at 3M.

“She’s really smart, I’m really excited to work with her,” Mahapatra said. “Some of her prior work has been implementing this type of technology in a medical environment.”

Mahapatra’s project will be a mobile app that uses a camera and other sensors to instruct the user on what to do in the kitchen. Right now he is working on a seamless integration between the software and hardware components.

“This summer I plan on creating more complex interactions with my 3M mentor,” Mahapatra said.

He’s also working with his mentor to make sure the electrical components, like camera and sensors, can last in a kitchen environment where heat and moisture are common.

Mahapatra’s mother, a lawyer, encouraged him to apply for a patent because of the uniqueness of his idea.

“I worked with a patent firm in California, it is in the process of being reviewed,” Mahapatra said.

While his patent is pending, Mahapatra is working on preparing his project for the final event at 3M headquarters in October.

The final project will be compatible with ADA guidelines for people with disabilities Mahapatra said. The program will include audio, visual and haptic communications so it is accessible for visually and hearing-impaired users. He also thinks it can be useful for people who want to experiment with new cuisines.

“This project can be applied everywhere– household kitchens and industrial kitchens. Especially because food is such an important aspect of our lives, providing joy, careers and nutrition. It has the potential to help a lot of people,” Mahapatra said.

In his patent application, Mahapatra included that the program would monitor for pre-hazardous conditions.

“Fire alarms only detect once the fire has already started,” he said.

With his program, a user would get an alert if they leave the gas on or if the food starts to burn.

“It will detect hazardous situations before damage can occur,” Mahapatra said.

Mahapatra is the second Cobb County School District student to have been named a finalist in this challenge. In 2016, Kennesaw High School student Sara Makboul created nano cellulose beads to remove pollution from stormwater.

Samarth Mahapatra, 3M Young Scientist Challenge Finalist. (Courtesy of Samarth Mahapatra)

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