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Kirby 8th Grader Sonya Ganeshram and Team Named eCYBERMISSION National Champs

Kirby 8th Grader Sonya Ganeshram and Team Named eCYBERMISSION National Champs

Her 8th grade team wins national acclaim in science competition



Kirby Junior High's Sonya Ganeshram stands fourth from the right in this photo from the Washington, D.C., competition. 

A Wichita Falls student is a national winner in the 2015-2016 eCYBERMISSION Competition. She is part of the 8th grade team that was selected as the best from more than 7,000 teams.


Kirby Junior High 8th grader Sonya Ganeshram, along with team members Ashwin Koduri and Rushil Chander, became the 8th grade winning team with their invention of a safety device that alerts the hearing impaired to dangers. Its sensors translate into an SMS text alert and safety device vibrations.


Only four teams – one for each grades 6 through 9  – won national acclaim in the 2015-2016 eCYBERMISSION Competition June 24, 2016. The winning teams were chosen from 20 national finalist teams that were the best of the 7,000 entrants.


The U.S. Army sposored the eCYBERMISSION Competition, which was held in Washington, D.C.


Each member of the four national winning teams received a total of $9,000 (matured value) in U.S. E.E. Savings Bonds.


Proud teachers

“We are so proud of her!” wrote Kirby teacher Lynn Seman in an email. She sponsored several of Sonya’s projects over the years and was following this one that came shortly after her retirement in May. “Quite an amazing girl! I am just too excited for her.”


Another Kirby teacher, Gwenna Gallenberger, basked in the excitement of her student’s win as she sent an excited email. “Sonya’s team just won the eCYBERMISSION competition!!! They are national champions!”


The eCYBERMISSION competition is designed to bring sixth-, seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders to the science table to conduct science research or create inventions that solve real problems in their community.


“The U.S. Army is committed to answering the nation’s call for increased STEM education opportunities for students,” said Louis R. Lopez, eCYBERMISSION program manager. “Congratulations to the 2016 national winners and STEM-in-Action grant recipients for your commitment to solving community issues.”


Sonya’s team worked under Bhagyashri Chander and developed a new safety device for the hearing impaired to help notify a user of dangers. Their application converts emergency light signals, like strobe lights, and gas leak detection information into an SMS text alert. It will also create a vibration for a device worn by a person who is hearing impaired.


Nothing new for Sonya

Earlier in the year, Sonya took to the Texas state competition a similar invention that she created through her skill at computer coding. She created the Prescription Overdose Protection Box, which is wired and programmed to beep when too many pills are dispensed from a pill jar.

She came up with the idea for a security system for the hearing impaired for a Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge competition a year ago. She did experiments proving that the security system currently in place for the hearing impaired -- strobe lighting -- didn't always succeed in alerting a sleeping person or someone in another room. She placed first in the state of Texas with her idea. 

Last year Sonya also took it upon herself to form an after-school coding class at Kirby, where she taught fellow students to code. She plans to take her class with her to high school in the fall and offer it to all the district’s students. She and her mother are in the process of setting up a non-profit group that will meet on the Midwestern State University campus in the fall.

The e-CYBERMISSION Competition 
For this e-CYBERMISSION competition, Sonya joined with two friends from the Dallas area to form the team that ran with her idea for a better alert system for the hearing impaired. Working every weekend from September 2015, the three students created a prototype with a light and gas sensor. "It was a lot of computer coding they had to learn for it," said Deepika Ganeshram, Sonya's mother. "They had to make sure the sensors were working." 
One of the student's mothers worked for AT&T and guided them with ways to connect their sensors to the Internet to send text messages as alerts.
Though Sonya and her team members won the competition's state contest and were fairly confident they would win its regional level, competition at the national level was so complex that "you could never tell" how well you were doing, said Mrs. Ganeshram. There were many steps to take and much paperwork all along the way. "Everything is so iffy about these things," she said. "It's hard to win at the national level."
The students were judged not only on their project but also on their team collaboration, among many other things, said Mrs. Ganeshram. The hardest thing for Sonya was making time to travel from Wichita Falls to the Dallas area to work with her team members every weekend.


Fellow contest winners

The national sixth-grade winning team investigated the effects of Saharan dust levels on local respiratory issues and how to create a warning system for asthma sufferers in Puerto Rico. The seventh-grade team looked for cost-effective ways to heal wounds in a world with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The ninth-grade team studied the impact of antibiotics on mitochondrial function compared to natural antibiotics.


A week’s worth of events

Sonya and her team members participated in the weeklong event that focused on educational opportunities and team-building opportunities. Teams participated in various STEM demonstrations and hands-on activities. They visited Capitol Hill to meet members of Congress, did sightseeing at the National Mall, and participated in a live-streamed National Showcase where students displayed and demonstrated their winning ideas.


For more information

For more information about the eCYBERMISSION competition, visit