Junior Shiva Kumar Creates Science Club and Wins Award


Courtesy of Shiva Kumar

Junior Shiva Kumar stands in front of his board for the Intel Science Fair. “What I am trying to accomplish is for the future and for the future doctors to be able to utilize this plant based diet, instead of taking a lot of medication, when people are having these metabolic diseases,” Kumar said.

Anjali Sundaram, Reporter

While sports and music may dominate many competitive fields, academics is starting to play a more dominant role in competitive contests. However, junior Shiva Kumar was still astounded by the lack of competition opportunities at CPHS for students eager to be involved in STEM. So, he created a club dedicated to science fairs.  He cultivated the organization for those that foster a love and passion for science, or more specifically, research and development.

The Science Fair club nurtures science too, not only of high school students, but also elementary school children. Kumar and members of the club often hold science fairs for students to develop their ideas and compete in.

“I wanted a way for STEM to be pretty important for those kids that are interested in STEM,” Kumar said. “That is why I started doing science fairs in local and elementary schools like Westside and Cypress. Hopefully I can start a movement that makes STEM really important for them.”

Despite their age, the kids are advanced not only in their thinking, but in their inventions, according to Kumar.

“A lot of times projects are about these really cool electronics that I wouldn’t even know,” Kumar said. “Even I learn from these projects and what is really interesting is that a lot of kids can kind of figure out what they are interested in, in science or engineering, at a very young age. Therefore, they will develop certain hobbies and inventions that can be used in the future.”

While innovating and creating is a large part of why Kumar does science fairs for the younger students, it’s the hope that these student’s love for STEM will evolve that drives him.

“The most rewarding part is the fact that these kids will now know that science and engineering is more than just studying,” Kumar said. “It’s more fun and hopefully more kids will be able to enjoy studying the sciences and hopefully get STEM degrees in the future.”

In addition to encouraging elementary school students’ love for science, Kumar was also curious to see if there were any science fair competitions for high school students.

“I am a bit of a science geek,” Kumar said. “And I had a couple of ideas myself that I was really interested in researching about. I kind of just researched them throughout my high school career and then I thought: I wonder if there was some sort of competition?”

With the help of computer science teacher Cheri Whalen, Kumar was able to sign up for the Intel Science Fair competition. And, after careful discerning, he found the perfect project.

“My project was about the plant based diet and its ability to reverse certain lifestyle diseases,” Kumar said. “These lifestyle diseases are more metabolic diseases [diseases influenced by metabolism]. Essentially, it is what food you eat that can cause diseases like: diabetes, high cholesterol, or even high blood pressure. But if you just go on this plant based diet, which is really restrictive, you are able to reduce a lot of your medications, which will enable you to not worry about the diseases and allow you to live a long and healthy lifestyle.”

He learned of the idea when a family friend, who had diabetes, explained that the diet enabled her to not take insulin. Because she [the family friend] did the diet in a group, Kumar was able to collect all their data and understand why the diet works.

“What I am trying to accomplish is for everyone in the future to be able to utilize this plant based diet, instead of taking a lot of medication,” Kumar said. “It’s hard for a lot of people to take six medications twice a day, but if they went on this diet and were able to take none of those medications they could live a longer and healthier lifestyle.”

A longer and healthier lifestyle appealed to Kumar, as he himself as moved to the plant based diet.

“I will probably continue doing it for the rest of my life,” Kumar said. “I also have been a lifelong vegetarian, but even with being a vegetarian, you can still eat lots of unhealthy stuff, like chips and coke. But with this plant based diet I could live this long and healthy lifestyle without having to worry about my health, because I am eating food that nature wants me to eat, not the stuff that humans want me to consume.”

Taking the data he collected and his own personal experience, Kumar created a poster board and research paper filled with his findings. Fitting the competitions guidelines, he ensured that his presentation was the best it could be, practicing his performance multiple times. However, despite the effort and devotion Kumar had to his project, he did not receive an award or the opportunity to continue to Nationals.

“At first I was a bit disappointed because I felt like my project deserved it because of all the hard work and dedication that I put in,” Kumar said. “But then I thought that I still got the amazing opportunity to compete in this, and I still am going to continue on this plant-based diet. I was so grateful for the opportunity to even participate. Though, I was still a bit little bummed out, but things happen for a reason. At least I was able to do it and inspire other people.”

For most people, the journey ends there, but for Kumar it was just the beginning, starting with an email from the director and a phone call from Whalen.

“It was crazy,” Kumar said. “I first got an email from the director and a call from Ms. Whalen at the same time. I still don’t even know what happened, but when she called me she said that the science fair director emailed you, which usually never happens to anyone, so go check that email maybe something happened.”

Something did happen and when Kumar clicked email, he was greeted with a black and bold: congratulations.

Not only had Kumar’s hard work and dedication impressed the judges, it had enthralled them considerably and they created a whole new award and category for Kumar and projects like his. This accomplishment is also coupled with the chance for him to advance to Nationals.

“Let’s just say that as soon as I read that, I ran outside,” Kumar said. “I was so happy. That was a great day. Immediately after I told my parents and they were super excited. It was unbelievable.”

On Apr. 1-2, Kumar will be attending the National level Intel Science competition, in San Antonio. In addition to practicing and improving, Kumar is keen to brushing up on medical terms to enlist in both his presentation and his paper.

While the national competition will be much more competitive than the state, as many college professors will be judging according to Kumar, the atmosphere and gratification of coming this far is what enthuses him.

“I am most excited to see the different projects that other people were able to create,” Kumar said. “I am hopeful for at least an award, and obviously, I am hoping to be able to make it to internationals, but that is really hard to do. Plus, I just really enjoy this process. I love science, and this part of preparing and getting read and attending the event. Honestly, I am excited for the whole thing in general.”