WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ore. (KPTV) – For Sahasra Swargam, it all started growing up around crops during weekly trips to Sauvie Island.
“I used to go there every weekend to see how fast they were growing, what the results (are),” she said. “I realized the progress was kind of slow.”
Swargam started looking into what could grow crops healthier. She came up with soil that includes arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF).
“I was looking at all the benefits AMF has through Google,” Swargam said. “Using it in plants it makes the plant grow healthier and better. It has so many benefits.”
Her idea includes sensors to monitor soil temperature, moisture and pH level. That data is sent to a program which collects it real-time in the cloud.
All of this combined, got her named one of 10 national finalists in the 3M Young Scientist Challenge.
“I was like really happy,” Swargam said. “I couldn’t keep my smile in. I was walking around the halls that day smiling so much, and the teachers kept wondering why.”
It’s a major honor for a student who just finished her eighth-grade year at Stoller Middle School in Beaverton.
Her father, Sunil Swargam, said it’s a big deal for her family as well.
“Until now, nobody knows but my family what I’m doing,” Sunil Swargam said. “I’m also an average human being in a big society.”
It was actually Sunil and his friends who were the ones working in that field on Sauvie Island where his daughter first noticed the crops. He said when his daughter was younger, a lot of times she would leave food uneaten on her plate.
“That way, by looking at people who are really working hard in the field probably she would be changing her mind and start eating all the last beans,” Sunil Swargam said.
Sunil said he’s impressed with how far his daughter has come.
“Not only did she stop that point,” he said. “She moved forward and she started thinking about, ‘How do I help farmers?’”
Sahasra said she’s thankful for getting a chance to be the winner. She knows it would also mean her invention could change lives.
“It really makes me think I’m working on something big,” she said.
Sahasra is now perfecting her idea. She has one final presentation to the judges in mid-October in Minneapolis.
The winner of the entire event gets to take home $25,000.
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