Oceanside CA— ExploraVision is the largest K-12 STEM competition in the country. Kainath Kamil (sophomore at Mission Vista High School), Alice Lei (Freshman), and Valeria Millan (senior) was the team leader of the First Place entry of the High School division. This competition asks students to find solutions for real-world problems using science.
The students devised a way to genetically modify the bacteria M. luteus to take in carbon dioxide and methane. The bacteria would be implemented into factories, cars, and cattle farms in order to ease the effects of climate change. It is a lot more complicated than it seems. Read about it at https://www.exploravision.org/winners
The three teammates spent 6 months drafting a research paper on exactly how to do this. Being the team leader, Kainath emailed many professors for help and only one, a microbiology professor from UC Berkeley, responded to help. She gave Kainath many resources to look at such as areas for genetic modification and scholarly articles about different kinds of bacteria.
In February 2019, the girls submitted their entry. About a month later they got the unsuspecting news that they won regionals and were moving onto finals. The region they were in, California, was the most competitive region in the competition. They went against 5 other teams across North America.
As finalists, they had to create a website, a two-minute video, and a prototype all in one month. This was their result: https://nstawebdirector.wixsite.com/modifiedmluteus
They noticed the competition was tough, but much to their surprise they won 1st place in the entire High School Division! Each of the girls won $10,000 is US savings bonds and an awards weekend in Washington D.C.
“It felt unreal,” Kainath said, “I was so surprised we won such a big competition but so glad that all that work paid off. I am very thankful for the professor who mentored me and my chemistry teacher for being my coach.”
They met science celebrity, Bill Nye, respected astronaut/former NFL player, Leland Melvin, and very prominent figures in the National Science Teachers Association and Toshiba. The team also visited their senators’ offices: Diane Feinstein and Kamala Harris.
After presenting her project at the National Press Club and being on two TV channels, each of the girls went back to work for the summer.
Kainath Kamil is currently doing research at UCSD on biomedical science and wants to get her papers published when the summer is over. She just finished her sophomore year and has already worked in research regarding stem cells and neuroblastoma. “I hope my her big win can pave a way for my work to be recognized by a respected scientific journal.” Next year, Kainath hopes to actually make their proposition a reality and participate in more science competitions.
Valeria Millan will start her Freshman year at UCSD to study human biology. She wants to do research regarding systemic lupus to help her mom who suffers from this disease. There is currently no cure and the cause of lupus is unknown. However, Valeria hopes to make great breakthroughs in her lifetime.
Alice Lei is starting her sophomore year soon and wants to continue her activism for climate change. She plans to do more research on climate change and alternative ways to solve the problem. She is also looking into other pressing matters like our plastic problem. She is very excited to start her club, Amnesty International, to defend human rights.Alice is also looking forward to another season of cross country and track.
Learn more about ExploraVision at http://exploravision.org/