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Local middle schoolers travel to D.C. for national science competition

Aditya Ramachandran (from left), Prateek Dullur, Adviser Ramu Ramachandran, Adarsh Mattu and Senthooran Kalidoss are currently in Washington, D.C. for the national level of the eCYBERMISSION competition.
Aditya Ramachandran (from left), Prateek Dullur, Adviser Ramu Ramachandran, Adarsh Mattu and Senthooran Kalidoss are currently in Washington, D.C. for the national level of the eCYBERMISSION competition.

LISLE – Seventh-graders from two local middle schools have developed a prototype for a mobile app they hope will change the way residents consume energy in Lisle and beyond.

The students and their energy-saving app were selected as regional first-place winners in the U.S. Army-sponsored web-based competition, eCYBERMISSION, which challenges students in sixth to ninth grade to solve real-life problems using science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Senthooran Kalidoss, 12; Aditya Ramachandran, 12; Prateek Dullur, 13 – all students at Kennedy Junior High School in Lisle – and Adarsh Mattu, 13 – a student at Madison Junior High School in Naperville – are members of the G4’s team, and are also four of only 71 kids competing on the national level of the competition, beating out more than 7,600 other teams and nearly 30,000 other students.

The group is in Washington, D.C. until Friday to present their app to a panel of judges who will select a winning team from each grade level, according to a press release from eCYBERMISSION, which is managed by the National Science Teachers Association.

The G4’s team competed in the competition last year and won the state title for their work on genetically modified foods.

But this year, Aditya said the team focused on energy consumption and conservation.

“In the beginning we decided we wanted to know more about the real problem we faced, whether it was a lack of motivation or awareness,” he said.

After conducting a survey of neighbors, friends and family, the group decided a lack of motivation prevented people from making more of an effort to reduce energy consumption.

“We decided we needed something fun and interactive, something that would get people to want to turn on the app every day,” Aditya said.

The app records the amount of energy different categories of devices consume, including gas, electric, lighting and entertainment appliances, comparing each measurement with an individual’s budget.

Packaging on most appliances lists how much energy the device uses in watts, Kalidoss said. But he agreed that entering the information manually into the app can be a pain.

Their vision, Kalidoss and Aditya explained, is for the app to communicate with a smart meter, which is a device that records energy consumption and sends the information back to the utility company.

The group believed that type of technology “was ten or 15 years down the road,” Kalidoss said. But the students recently met with representatives at ComEd, their local utility company, and learned smart meters would be coming to Lisle in August.

As part of a public awareness campaign, the students met with Lisle Mayor Joe Broda to discuss the future of the app in Lisle.

“They are extremely knowledgeable,” Broda said, adding that he’d like to give the group a chance to share their ideas at a future Village Board meeting.

For winning the state and regional competitions, each student received $3,000 in savings bonds. If they win the national competition, each will receive an additional $5,000 in savings bonds, plus an AEOP STEM-in-Action grant worth $5,000, which would allow the team to develop their app.

The students’ longterm goal is to put the app in the hands of their community, Aditya said.

“The app is going to help keep energy conservation front and center in people’s lives,” said Aditya’s father, Ramu Ramachandran, an architect and the team adviser.

“We really want to see if we can create some change in the community and get some bragging rights for [Lisle for] being the greenest community in Illinois,” Ramu said.

Broda commended the boys for tackling a pressing environmental concern at such a young age.

“For them to be in the competition, even getting to where they are at right now is a tremendous accomplishment,” Broda said. “As far as I’m concerned, they’ve won the gold medal today.”

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