FRESNO, California. (KGPE) – Clovis North sophomore John Estrada took first place in plant sciences at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair — known as the largest science fair in the world. Participants must win locally before entering the international fair.
He was awarded a $5,000 college scholarship for the first place win.
He also received $50,000 as the winner of the Gordon E. Moore award for positive outcomes for future generations.
Estrada’s science project tackled a local problem — drought. Specifically, he built a camera that can help determine if plants need more or less water. It’s meant as a quicker, more accurate way to assess drought stress in plants.
Estrada says, “Witnessing the damage brought about by drought in my agricultural community inspired me to help our farmers find a solution to this devastating problem.”
Water is precious here in the Central Valley. Although farmers can control exactly how much water plants get through tools like drip irrigation, knowing if crops are getting exactly the right amount can be something of a gray area.
Estrada used machine learning and his camera to analyze small changes in the colors of a plant’s leaves and temperature readings “so you can know if you need to water it or if you don’t need to water it.”
Clovis North teacher and science fair coordinator Kay Barrie says projects are most successful when students choose a topic they’re passionate about. “Coming up with something that is meaningful to them or that they have interest in — his own unique interest in computer science and trying to couple that with something that is relevant in the Valley here is what it’s all about.”
“It’s incredible. It’s truly inspirational to so many students right now. This is such a big win for science in general.”
Prize money is awarded in the form of college scholarships. Estrada says, “I’m thinking I want to go somewhere in the field of computer science. And I want to use computer science to help advance other fields of science like what I’ve been doing now.”