3M Young Scientist Challenge
Samhita Pokkunuri / YouTube

Samhita Pokkunuri, a student at Carl Sandburg Middle School in Old Bridge, is one of 10 finalists from across the country in this year’s 3M Young Scientist Challenge, a competition that encourages middle school students to use STEM to better the world around them.

The 3M Young Scientist Challenge is hosted by 3M and Discovery Education. It asks students in grades 5 through 8 to create an innovative solution to a problem they’re passionate about using scientific thinking. Finalists are chosen based on creativity, scientific knowledge and communication effectiveness.

For her entry, Samhita designed and programmed robots that mimic swarm intelligence. These robots can be used to complete tasks and collect data and information to aid in fields like healthcare, agriculture, construction, security and military operations.

This is the challenge’s thirteenth year, and previous winners have gone on to create nonprofits, make the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, exhibit their inventions at the White House Science Fair and be featured on shows like Good Morning America and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

As a finalist, Samhita will bring her concept to life with the help of a 3M scientist through a summer mentorship program. On October 12 and 13, she will compete virtually for the grand prize of $25,000 and the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist.”