STEM Awardee

Julie Mattimiro and Megan Cook in Mattimiro's science classroom. 

Eighth grader Megan Cook is not keen on the spotlight, but she earned it when she won her school, St. Patrick, $1,000 STEM award and her class a trip to Minnesota Rubber and Plastics' new facility for an engineer-for-a-day experience. 

Julie Mattimiro, seventh and eighth grade science teacher, was tipped off by a colleague about the Minnesota Rubber and Plastics contest. 

It didn’t exactly fit into the curriculum Mattimiro was teaching at the time, but it was a neat opportunity, so she posed it to her classes as extra credit. 

Cook always does the extra credit, Mattimiro said. 

Cook started brainstorming right away, coming up with a list of a bunch of possible subjects for the Young Innovators contest. She had to come up with a brand new idea. 

She consulted with her family and teachers, hearing similar feedback. Cook went with a paper focused on cleaning water with solar power. 

Her first step was to start to research her idea to see if something like it already existed. She typed it into google a bunch of different ways, she said, and nothing really came up. 

“A lot of people don’t have access,” Cook said. Not just to clean drinking water, but to clean enough water for washing dishes, showering or even flushing the toilet. 

Cook’s paper was titled “Solar Power Solution to Make Contaminated Water Drinkable,” which outlined a solution for securing clean drinking water using solar power and hydrophobic filters.

“Our committee of judges was extremely impressed with the thoughtful, detailed and creative entries we received for the Young Innovators contest,” Karthik Viswanathan, vice president of product development at Minnesota Rubber and Plastics, said. “We ultimately chose Megan’s entry for its thorough research, innovation, practicality and the creative way she came up with a solution to a major problem facing millions of people across the world. It also specifically addresses environmental sustainability and water quality which are two issues of importance for MRP.”

When Cook completed outlining how her idea for cleaning water with clean energy, she hadn’t quite met the 500-1,000 word limit. She decided to do additional research to include in her proposal as well to back up the importance of her idea. 

It paid off. 

Cook, who prefers to fly under the radar, did a double-take when she heard her name on St. Patrick’s Friday school news broadcast, announcing that she had won the contest. 

Her classmates were immediately excited and congratulatory. 

“It felt pretty good,” Cook said. 

Construction for Minnesota Rubber and Plastics' $7 million Innovation Center is scheduled to be completed in May. Upon completion, Cook and her class of 12 will travel to Plymouth, Minnesota to be engineers-for-a-day with some of the industry’s top materials scientists and engineers.

This will be one of the first field trips for the students since COVID-19 suspended outings. 

Additionally, Cook and Mattimiro have a task – determining how to spend the $1,000 award on STEM supplies. 

Mattimiro asked Cook what she wanted to spend the funds on. 

Cook responded with “I’d rather start with things we need.” 

The two are communicating with other staff at the school to make sure classrooms are stocked with necessary supplies, before diving into a wish list of STEM items. 

“This was all Megan,” Mattimiro said with pride.

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