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From: Infinite Potential Mission 2: Waves of Change , Mission 5: Energy Security
Madhu Ramankutty

Meet Madhu, a Student Argonaut from Operation: Infinite Potential.

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Madhu Ramankutty
Student Argonaut,
Vienna, VA

Madhu has taken part in four JASON curricula programs since 2002. This experience piqued her interest to be an Argonaut, as has her interest in global warming. Her science teacher says, "One quality that sets Madhu apart from her peers is her ability to see beyond the details of the subject and embrace the larger understandings that tie the details together." She has been involved in student government, Teen Summit and debate team. Madhu can express herself well, in both written and spoken form. She is forthright in her comments and questions for scientists and really wants to see how the science that is happening today will impact our future. 

In Her Own Words

On Heroes and Inspiration

People who I really admire are those who make connections between very different subjects. One individual who pops to mind is Al Gore – when he filmed An Inconvenient Truth, I thought he was able to connect politics and science; and I think that connection is important because it not only brings people together, but also gives people a broader look at the way the world functions. This was also a big reason that I wanted to participate in JASON – I want to have a hands-on approach to science now, so that I can use it in my future, and I also think JASON's curriculum really focuses on connecting science to other subjects. 

On Rube Goldberg Devices

Today was "lab" day, and day 2 of Mission 2 in Seattle. In the morning, we arrived at PMEL and met with Vasily Titov. Then, we engaged in an intense battle of Rube Goldberg machines. We were split into teams of Bryan and me, and Tim and Toba. Rube Goldberg was a satirical cartoonist who drew diagrams of complicated tasks that performed a simple task. Hence, a Rube Goldberg design is one which ultimately performs a simple task through a series of complicated ones. This was helpful in that we were able to better understand the most basic levels of energy transfers and transformations as we set off a series of energy reactions that either slid a nut down a slinky, a marble down a tube, or dominoes.

On the Science Behind Tsunameters

Although the science behind creating the machines may be very difficult, the ideas and applications behind the machine itself are quite simple and elegant. That was something that surprised me a lot – I especially think it is cool that kids can look at science at these different levels. On a basic level, it is important to understand the idea and the way the machine functions. However, it is possible to get more complex by understanding the scientific concepts behind the pressure sensors. Later, in the afternoon, we learnt how to put together one of the tsunami detectors, which was a lot of fun. Apparently the entire thing weighs around 5000 lbs! 

On "A Day in the Life of an Argo"

Okay…I know I have been saying "Wow, today was busy" everyday, but guess what? The same is going to be said today! We arrived in West Virginia at about 3 am this morning, and we roomed at the Ramada Inn. Lindsay and I were roommates, but we only slept for 3 hours because we had to wake up at 6 – bright and early! It was raining outside as we rode over to go to the National Energy Technology Lab (NETL), where we heard a little more about energy sources – particularly coal. They described a safe method of CO2 storage called "sequestration." We even got to see a model of it – it's pretty cool because I never thought that the horror of CO2 emissions could be avoided. After, we ate pizza and further bonded as a group. We then went to the Allegany Power Plant. I was so tired (and still am) but it was fun to see. We got to see a lot, and we even wore hardhats and walked into 100 degree temperatures indoors!

What JASON Means to Me

Being an Argonaut has been an incredible experience -- not only have I met some fantastic people and made some great friends along the way, but I also have absorbed an incredible amount of information and knowledge within the scientific world. JASON and this mission especially showed me how I can always impact and extend science to people all over the globe – not just those inside the scientific community. The JASON Project has made science not only science, but something that really revolves around everything I do. 

How do you think what you learned with JASON applies to your life?

I think that the interactions I have had with scientists will provide me with a deeper and more nuanced understanding of science so that I can apply it to whatever I do in the future. If I do science, then this is perfect! But, if I choose to go into a field like public policy, then this understanding of science that I have gotten from JASON will be able to affect my decisions then. My experiences at JASON have also helped me to bring together the larger picture. For example, the fact that a Tsunami researcher and Space Architect have so much in common would have blown my mind before – but now I am able to better see that connection!