Austin Crouchley, 13, an eighth-grader at Garden City Middle School,...

Austin Crouchley, 13, an eighth-grader at Garden City Middle School, poses on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2017, with the solar tracking device he designed and for which he was named one of 30 finalists in the Broadcom MASTERS competition for science, technology, engineering and math. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

A Garden City Middle School student who researched a way to make solar energy more cost-effective is among 30 finalists in the elite Broadcom MASTERS contest for science, technology, engineering and math.

Austin Crouchley, 13 and in the eighth grade, said Wednesday he wants to help solve the world’s energy and water crises.

“The sun is so powerful, and it’s just giving constant energy,” he said in an interview. “If we can make solar panels more economically sustainable and more efficient, we can actually use solar panels to satisfy basically all of our electric needs in our planet, and that’s very promising.”

Crouchley was among 2,500 students to apply to the seventh annual contest from 37 states, Puerto Rico and Department of Defense overseas sites. Competition officials earlier this month selected 300 semifinalists and narrowed the group to 30 on Wednesday.

Those finalists will compete in Washington, D.C., from Oct. 19-25 for more than $100,000 in prizes.

Crouchley devised what he described as a simple, low-cost solar tracking device that can be used to increase the efficiency of solar panels in some applications to help bring clean drinking water to developing nations. Such an effort will “make a huge difference,” he said.

He operated under the premise that a solar panel that follows the sun’s path will create more energy than if it were to follow a fixed path.

Crouchley worked on his project at home during the summer of 2016 and made improvements to his experiment this past summer.

“These talented young scientists, mathematicians and engineers, whose projects range from computer science and mechanical engineering to microbiology and sustainability, are part of the generation that will solve the grand challenges we face today,” said Paula Golden, president of the Broadcom Foundation.

Paris Zaferiou, who advises the middle school’s research club, said she has watched Crouchley “go from one idea to another. And the fact that he’s using it for worldwide good is even better than his winning the competition.”

The Broadcom MASTERS competition is a program of the Broadcom Foundation, a California-based nonprofit that seeks to advance STEM education and scholarship, and the nonprofit Society for Science & the Public, based in the nation’s capital.

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