Garden City Has A Science Whiz Kid

Austin Crouchley is pictured here with his presentation board that explains his Archimedes-inspired solar tracker device, that can be seen on the lower right. (Photos courtesy of Garden City Public School District)

Overachieving is part of Austin Crouchley’s DNA. He recently returned from a five-day trip to Washington D.C., where he was one of 30 finalists taking part in the 2017 Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering Rising Stars) competition. Over the summer, the eighth-grader was selected as one of America’s Top 10 Young Scientists in the 2017 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. As tired as he might be from all this traveling and being taken out of his comfort zone, Crouchley is continuing down this particular scientific path inspired by his grandfather, who planted this seed early on and inspired him to put together the device that paved the way to his taking part in these competitions.

“One of the reasons I got interested in doing my solar project is that my grandfather used to own a solar company in Nevada,” he said. “So I got interested in solar panels from him talking to me about it.”

The project he pulled together for his entry was a solid piece of engineering that impressed Garden City Middle School science research teacher Dr. Paris Zaferiou and district 6-12 science coordinator Dr. Elena Cascio.

“Austin designed, built and tested a single axis hydro-powered solar tracker that generated more electricity than a traditional fixed-mounted solar module,” Cascio explained.

And while the baseline for both competitions was this project, the path to being picked for both of these events was very different. For Broadcom, Crouchley was chosen after finishing second in the Long Island Science Fair and falling into the top 10 percent of winners in local science fairs around the country. Roughly 8,000 students from across the country participated. The next stage involved Crouchley penning a number of essays before being one of 30 pupils asked to come out to the nation’s capitol. During his stay, the avid scholar-athlete was put on a team with four other participants. From this point, the group had a number of science challenges they had to undertake including using a computer called Raspberry Pie and using code to have it make a ball roll and receive input. The 3M Young Scientist Challenge involved a more direct approach of qualifying that involved Crouchley shooting a video as part of the process. After becoming one of the 10 finalists, 3M asked if he wanted to participate in an internship over the summer, work with a mentor and keep both a blog and a science notebook with his observations gleaned from doing a number of challenges. The difficulty varied with both Broadcom and 3M.

“I think [Broadcom] had more difficult concepts. I think for their technology challenges—the concepts you needed to know in order to do it effectively, was more complicated than it was in the 3M Young Scientist Challenge,” he said. “That was more like thinking on the fly using things you already know.”

As someone looking to be an engineer once he gets to college, Crouchley treasured his experience, despite the difficulties he encountered in both competitions, whether it was the actual challenges or having to stand up before 200 people to go over his project. In all, it’s something he readily embraced.

“The challenges were the hardest and best part of all of this,” he said. “But to quote my blog, for anything worthwhile in life, perseverance is key.”

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