St. Charles seventh-grader named state merit winner in young scientist challenge Students in grades 5-8 had to create a solution that improves ever

Cassandra Smith of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Fort Wayne has been named the Indiana merit winner in the 10th annual Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, a top science competition for students in grades 5-8.

Smith, who will be in seventh grade this fall, was among the 35 state merit winners selected nationwide, a program news release said.

The goal of the Young Scientist Challenge program is to engage children at an age when research shows they begin to lose interest in science, the news release. The program invites them to explore scientific concepts and report their results creatively.

In January, students received the challenge to create an innovative solution for an everyday problem that can improve people’s lives, the news release said. Entries had to be submitted as short videos in which the student describes his or his solution.

Smith entered Fall Guardian Mat system, which is designed to protect older adults from falls.

Here’s how Cassandra described her entry:

“My invention is a floor mat that will send an alert to caregivers when it senses feet on it and inflate like an air mattress to reduce injury to any part of the body impacted during a fall. The material for the floor mat will be thick PVC. It will have a durable, touch sensor inside of it to detect motion with a reusable cold gas inflation system to quickly fill the mat with air.

“My invention will have an on/off switch so, when it is not needed, wheelchairs can roll over it or visitors and caretakers can step on it. On the edge will be magnets if there is a need to connect multiple mats to cover a larger area. By combining a more reliable alert with a softer impact, this invention could help lower the number of injuries and deaths from falls in the growing older adult population.”

As a state merit winner, Smith receives a technology prize package, the news release said.

Judges also selected 10 national finalists, who will face off in a competition in October at the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minn. <br>

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For more about the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, go to