Utah girls win $16,000 in national middle school science competition

(Becky Jacobs | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sidor Clare, left, won $10,000 Tuesday at a national middle school STEM competition. Her partner, Kassie Holt, right, also won an award.

Three students from Ogden and Sandy won $16,000 in awards Tuesday at a national middle school STEM competition.

Sidor Clare, 14; Kassie Holt, 13; and Mercedes Randhahn, 14, were selected in September from among 30 finalists in the Broadcom MASTERS for their projects involving science, technology, engineering and math. For the first time in the competition’s history, there were more female finalists, 18, than male, 12, according to a news release.

Clare received one of the Broadcom MASTERS’ top honors, the $10,000 Marconi/Samueli Award for Innovation, at a ceremony Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

Holt was awarded first place in the Technology Award and $3,500, while Randhahn received second place in the Engineering Award and $2,500. They were both also given iPads.

Ranhahn, who is now a freshman at Saint Joseph Catholic High School, figured out a way for people to safely dispose of leftover and unneeded opioids at home by deactivating the pills in a mixture of activated carbon and vinegar. Because of her age, though, Randhahn couldn’t legally work with actual opioids for her project, and had to substitute caffeine.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mercedes Randhahn will be traveling to Washington D.C. as one of the finalists in a national middle school science competition. Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019.

Clare and Holt, who are eighth graders at Beehive Science and Technology Academy, created building materials that could be used on Mars by combining resin with a soil mix similar to what would be found on the red planet. Their brick was so strong that they had to use a concrete crusher to test it, Clare said.

The finalists were judged on their projects, as well as “their knowledge of STEM subjects and their demonstration of 21st century skills in a series of hands-on challenges," held in D.C. from Friday to Tuesday, according to the release.

The challenges included coding a functional program using a type of computer called Raspberry Pi; designing a pack that must hold a three-month supply of medicine; and seining, or fishing with a net, in the Chesapeake Bay.

“Each finalist’s school will receive $1,000 from the Broadcom MASTERS to benefit their science program,” the news release said.

The three Utah students were selected out of more than 2,300 applicants from 47 states. Randhahn, Clare and Holt all have dreams of working in STEM fields. Holt wants to be a computer engineer for Google, Randhahn a chemical engineer and Clare a nutritionist.

Becky Jacobs is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of women in Utah for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today.