Two Manhasset Secondary School students are heading to the White House.
Kimberly Te and Christine Yoo, 2015 winners of the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology were accepted to attend the sixth annual White House Science Fair on April 13.
“Kimberly and I were absolutely shocked that we were invited to the White House because it is something we always imagined doing but never realized that it would become a reality,” Yoo said. “We are humbled to be attending and we are so excited to meet the rest of the attendees and just have an actual conversation with President Obama. The fact that this is the last White House Science Fair under his administration makes the experience even more special.”
In a statement, U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, who lobbied for Te and Yoo’s candidacy for the White House Science Fair, said he is proud of the students and their teachers.
“What an incredible honor for two outstanding young women,” Israel said. “Kimberly and Christine continue to serve as an inspiration for young people who want to use their talents to make a difference in the world.”
Te and Yoo both childhood friends won the grand prize of a $100,000 college scholarship last December.
The 17 year olds, won the national award for a project exploring new methods to harness energy and clean up oil spills.
The device has a “cost-effective design” and is a “profitable and noninvasive method for cleaning up oil spill pollution,” Te said in an interview with the Manhasset Times in November.
The pair competed over the weekend against other finalists in front of a panel of college professors at Geoge Washington University in Washington D.C.
“We designed a device using a loofah sponge, a common everyday loofah sponge,” Yoo said in December. “You can clean yourself with it, you can even eat it because it’s a cucumber.”
Their project is a device that is able to produce clean energy and clean up oil spills simultaneously, Yoo said. The project also used naturally sustainable sources instead of commercial materials.
Yoo said she and Te have been friends since they were in first grade and they both have taken many of the same classes over the years.
They both even participated in an eighth grade science research honors program together that took place on Saturday mornings at 9 a.m.
By combining their mutual interest in fighting against environmental pollution, Te said, she and Yoo were able to create their project.
“It’s been so much fun having a close friend as a partner,” Te said. “We have fun and at the same time we know how to cheer each other up. We had fun together as friends working on the project.”
Thomas Elkins, K-12 coordinator of science, health and technology for the Manhasset School District said he couldn’t imagine any students more deserving of the invitation.
Elkins said Te and Yoo are perfect examples of what a true scientist should be — curious, dedicated, and genuinely concerned about their world,
“This is the culmination of four years of hard work and dedication, and they are ideal representatives for our research program and students in general,” Elkins said. “We could not be more proud of them as both students and people.”
Te, who wants to become an environmental engineer, said she is shocked and honored by the invitation.
“We are so grateful to be invited for our work and just being recognized for all of our hard work. We are thrilled to be representing girls in the Science and Engineering Field,” she said.
The White House Science fair highlights the ingenuity and entrepreneurship of the next generation of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and innovators.
The students attending the event had to explain how they are working to fix some of America’s greatest challenges — from combatting climate change, uncovering new ways to fight cancer, to space exploration.