A Granite Ridge student used her science fair project to address a growing agricultural issue in the Central Valley – and it landed her among the top 30 middle schoolers in the nation.
12-year-old Pauline Estrada took second place in the Technology portion of the BroadCom Masters competition last week. The BroadCom Masters finals ran from Friday, October 16 to Wednesday, October 21 and offered top two finishes for the STEM categories – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
With the second place finish, Estrada is awarded $2,500 applicable towards any STEM camp of her choice.
Estrada was elated to win an award in the 2020 edition of the BroadCom Masters, especially after falling short of placing in 2019.
“I was extremely happy to hear I won,” said Estrada. “I went there last year and didn’t receive a prize, so I decided to work even harder and was even more determined to place this year.”
Pauline’s project was already named Top 30 in the nation – out of 3,500 entrants – when she reached finals on Oct. 16. Winning one of eight prizes given nationally at the awards ceremony on Oct. 21st was an even bigger achievement that made teachers and classmates back home proud.
“At that young age and to do that is very inspiring, said Kay Barrie, the science fair coordinator at Clovis North and Granite Ridge Intermediate. “I hope she goes on to inspire other young girls, or any young person to fulfill their dreams.”
Barrie entered Pauline’s project at this past March’s Fresno County science fair, where it won first place overall. The county science fair canceled its public activities halfway through its duration, due to COVID-19, which kept Estrada from receiving her first place award in-person.
“I was really disappointed,” Estrada remembers, “because I was looking forward to presenting my research to the judges.”
Out of anything, Pauline most enjoys sharing her knowledge and explaining her project and the thought process behind it.
And when she explains her project, it’s easy to shake your head with bewilderment, impressed with how an 8th grade student built a creative solution to track one of the Central Valley’s biggest issues.
Her project, titled the “Infra-Rover,” is a robotic machine that travels remotely and uses a built-in infrared camera to detect drought stress in plants. When plants stop prespirating, the infrared technology detects heat within the plant, therefore indicating stress.
With drought remaining one of the key issues farmers battle today, technology like this is not only topical for the Valley, but timely.
Helping Pauline with her project in the months leading up to BroadCom Masters was Fresno County science fair director Jennifer Weibert, along with her mother Maria (plant science lecturer at Fresno State) and father Dexter (oncologist and hematologist at Fresno cCare Center).
Make no mistake about it, though: Pauline came up with the idea, designed the robot, constructed the robot, and drew up detailed, easy-to-follow explanations for her “Infra-Rover,” all by herself.
All this thought up by a middle school student from Clovis with a big love for science.
“Science is the world, the way of the future,” Estrada explains.
If there are more young scientists like Pauline Estrada in the world, the future sure looks bright.