Three Naperville students win Illinois regional in virtual STEM competition

Three Scullen Middle Schoolers with their teacher from the STEM competition
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Three Naperville students were named Illinois regional winners for eCYBERMISSION, a virtual STEM competition for sixth to ninth-grade students put on by the U.S. Army that focuses on identifying community problems.

Team Shanti’s project

Team Shanti is made up of three seventh graders from Scullen Middle School: Nitya Jayasankar, Naisha Hamirwasia, and Leia Nair. The girls’ project focuses on mental health and anxiety within their school.

“So we noticed students feel way more comfortable talking to a friend who is their own age rather than a therapist who’s probably going to be two or three times their age. So we created a focal point for the platform, the Shanti Coping Buddies,” said Nair.

For the project, certain students that have a good emotional quotient go through a one-week training led by health professionals to become a coping buddy. Those students will then act as a friend to students that are struggling with mental health, rather than going to a therapist.

The group’s regional victory

The girls’ project won the Illinois regional, a pleasant surprise for the whole crew.

“When we got the news, I wasn’t expecting it. We submitted the project and then later that day my dad tells me, you guys made it, you guys got first in regionals. I showed the news to my friends seeing if they heard or not and we were all like jumping up and down. We never expected anything like this to happen,” said Hamirwasia.

What’s next for Shanti Coping Buddies?

They also landed in the top three in the North Central region, which is made up of eight states, giving them the chance to qualify for nationals. Though they didn’t make that cut, they were still given a $5,000 STEM-In-Action grant to continue working on Shanti Coping Buddies.

“We plan to spread this out so that it’s like its own business essentially, so anyone can use it, like around the world. So first we want to target our school, then our school district, then we sort of want to open it up to like the world,” said Jayasankar.

Team Shanti plans to continue working on the project next year as eighth graders with hopes of making it to nationals.

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