Holcomb puts the best of the best STEM students on his team

By Christina Ramey

INDIANAPOLIS – Holding their new blue and gold letter jackets, four top high school graduates stood with the governor as their jackets spelled out “STEM.”

These students are a part of the Gov. Eric Holcomb’s first STEM team. They are the elite among Indiana’s students in science, technology, engineering and math. More than 100 high school students were reviewed by a panel of STEM professionals, teachers and university representatives in order to find the best of the best for this new honor. In addition to receiving the letter jacket, each student selected for the team was awarded a $1,000 college scholarship.

“These four students have demonstrated excellence in subjects that are fueling the innovation and entrepreneurship to build our economic future,” Holcomb said in a statement after the families and teachers of four students gathered in the governor’s office Tuesday to be honored.

The winner for technology, Samantha Fassnacht, is already working for a startup company called Codelicious.

“I’ve been working at Codelicious for about year now teaching younger students in computer science and coding and kind of passing on my knowledge to the next students so they can grow up and learn more too,” said Fassnacht, a Westfield High School graduate.

Miranda Shook, a graduate of Greenfield-Central High School, won for engineering. Shook is also a part of the only Rover team in Indiana.

“Rover is a NASA program where you build and design a two-person bike to go over simulated martian terrain,” Shook said. “Last year, not that session, but the year before, we got second in the world competing against countries like Russia, Germany, Puerto Rico.”

Shook will be a German ambassador next year with the U.S. State Department funded Congress-Bundesstag Youth Exchange where she will be immersed in German culture by living with a host family while pursuing her educational interests before she heads off to Valparaiso University to study mechanical and electrical engineering.

Truman Bennet, who won for math, is one out of 18 students in the world to earn a perfect score on the AP Calculus AB Exam in 2016. More than 300,000 students took the exam. The Marion High School graduate plans on attending Purdue University at West Lafayette to major in mathematics.

The science winner, Ujwala Pamidimukkala, placed first in the state for both Medical Math and Pharmacy Tech in the 2016 Occupations Students of America competition. The graduate of Columbus North High School, who has numerous other awards and achievements, plans to attend college and major in molecular biology with hopes to become a cardiovascular surgeon.

“It’s a pleasure to recognize their hard work on a statewide level and elevate Indiana’s academic superstars,” Holcomb said. “I can’t wait to see where the future takes these bright young Hoosiers.”

Nominations for the 2018 Governor’s STEM Team will open in the fall.

Christina Ramey is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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