Caroline Crouchley, 13, of Garden City, is a finalist in...

Caroline Crouchley, 13, of Garden City, is a finalist in the 2019 3M Young Scientist Challenge. Credit: Danielle Crouchley

Surpassing what the average middle schooler knows about science, Caroline Crouchley, 13, of Garden City is a finalist in the 2019 3M Young Scientist Challenge. The annual competition tasks students in grades fifth to eighth with making a video describing a unique solution to an everyday problem. Crouchley is one of 10 finalists chosen out of thousands of students who submitted videos this year.

After watching her brother enter the competition several years ago, Crouchley, who has always loved science, couldn’t wait for her turn. In May, she submitted a two-minute video about her idea to create sustainable methods of public transportation. When she found out she was a finalist in June, she couldn’t believe it. 

Crouchley’s project was inspired by the construction she sees everyday outside her window in Garden City, as well as the Long Island Rail Road’s recent expansion. She noticed transportation causes pollution in her community, and she was determined to find a way to stop it.

“Maybe one day, we can have better technology and find a way to help the environment,” Crouchley said.

In her video, Crouchley explains that the use of fossil fuels emitted by public transportation is a major cause of environmental problems. She believes technology that eliminates the need for a diesel engine or an electric motor is the solution. To show her idea in action, she designed a new type of train.

Crouchley created a computerized system design model for her train using an engineering program called Autodesk Inventor. She brought the train to life using a 3D printer, magnets and a solar-powered air compressor. Crouchley said it took a long time to develop her ideas and make the video. She had to work under deadlines, too, which she said was stressful.

“It was all worth it,” she said. “I’m so excited to be a finalist in this competition and most of all I’m looking forward to meeting the other finalists.”

As a finalist in the Challenge, Crouchley won $1,000 and will move on to the last stage. This summer, she is working with her mentor Kandyce Bohannon, a 3M senior software engineer, to improve her project and implement 3M technology to the design. 

“It’s not everyday that a 13-year-old gets her hands on the advanced technology 3M has,” said Danielle Crouchley, Caroline’s mother. “She’s so lucky to have this opportunity.”

In October, Caroline will travel to the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, to compete in the final event. She will participate in a series of challenges, including a presentation of her completed innovation. If Crouchley wins, she will be awarded $25,000.

“I definitely want to do something that involves science in the future,” she said. “I love animals, so maybe I can help polar bears because they’re affected by pollution, too.”