These Whiz Kids Are Making Headlines

Arkansas is no stranger to bright youngsters. Heck, the youngest person to achieve nuclear fusion did so in Texarkana … at age 14 … in his parents’ garage. And with increased attention given to STEM subjects and entrepreneurship, it’s no coincidence the Natural State’s rising stars have been making headlines

A Bright Future

A group of high-school students at Lisa Academy North in Sherwood is literally harnessing the power of the sun to compete in the Solar Car Challenge this month. Since last August, the students have spent most every day after school building a solar-powered vehicle, and on July 15, they’ll be one of 26 teams nationwide to take their car on the road in a 1,350-mile race from Fort Worth, Texas, to Palmdale, California.

On the Map

Eighth-grader Wesley Bonner of Lake Hamilton Junior High School in Hot Springs visited our nation’s capital in May to represent The Natural State at the 30th annual National Geographic Bee after winning the state competition. And while most of us can probably rattle a handful of state capitals off the top of our heads, it’s a littttttle more difficult to remember, say, the capital of Tajikistan. (It’s Dushanbe.) Honestly, we’re lucky to find our cars in the parking lot most of the time.

Bee-coming the Best

Apparently, when it comes to bees, Arkansas is pretty buzzworthy. Out of 516 qualifying spellers for this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee in May, three came from right here in The Natural State. Weston Sills, 13, of Farmington made it to the second round this year, while Pavani Chittemsetty of Bentonville and Dasha Blalock of Jonesboro, both 12, were barely edged out of the finals in round 3. But if you ask us, even qualifying for the competition is quite the guerdon (noun: something that one has earned or gained : a reward : a recompense : a requital. Also, the winning word from the 2008 bee).

Fairing Well

Take note, reader: The future scientific leaders of tomorrow are already breaking ground as students today. At this year’s International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh in May, two students from Little Rock’s Central High School received top accolades for their research. Meghana Bollimpalli, 17, was a runner-up to the fair’s grand prize, earning a $50,000 grant from Intel, the fair’s sponsor, for discovering a way to synthesize materials and cut production and energy costs for the manufacturing of electrodes intended for devices such as supercapacitors.

Anusha Bhattacharyya, 16, earned a full scholarship to Arizona State University and a $1,000 third-place prize for her development of an environmentally friendly and efficient absorbent to remove organic pollutants from water.

Down to Business

A recent graduate of St. Joseph High School in Conway is leaving his alma mater a little better than he found it. From the time he was a sophomore, Ian Martin O’Dwyer was instrumental in developing a Cyber Café on the campus that serves as a teched-out multipurpose space where students can study or relax throughout the day. The space also includes the student-run 1879 Coffee & Co., where students can not only start their days with breakfast or a fresh cuppa (for grades nine through 12), but earn service hours working the café’s counter. Somehow Ian also managed to find time to kick-start the school’s weekly student news channel. Sounds like there’s a future entrepreneur a-brewing here.