Robot-building siblings from Clovis have won some big money. Now, they plan to team up
Clovis North student John Benedict Estrada recently took home the $50,000 grand prize at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair. “It was a big shock, and I honestly didn’t expect anything, so hearing my name being called was really surprising, really exciting. That whole weekend was just really exciting from the win,” Estrada said. His model, a robot that detects plant drought, won him the grand prize. If a robot that detects how plant thirst sounds familiar to you, that is because another student also placed in a science fair recently.
Estrada’s sister, Pauline Victoria Allasas Estrada, a Granite Ridge Intermediate School student, won $10,000 in the national Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics middle school competition the Broadcom Masters with a similar device during the fall of 2020. Although both models have the same function, they work differently and show off duo’s ingenuity and engineering talents. Both siblings had the opportunity to enter international science fairs due to their Fresno County science fair participation.
In fact, according to Jennifer Weibert, the Fresno County fair director, participating in the county fair could open doors for others the same why it did for the Estradas. “In my opinion, his win is amazing, and so I hope it opens the doors for more parents and students to be aware that this opportunity exists in Fresno. So, take advantage of it because it can change your life,” Weibert said.
Every year the Fresno County fair sends four kids to participate in the international science fair. The county covers all expenses for the final four participating students. “We have about 100 kids who enter in the high school division, and they can come from anywhere in the region. Because we are one of the only fairs in central California, besides Bakersfield or Sacramento, that gives kids a chance to move on to the international level,” Weibert said.
Estrada’s first-place project uses a robotic arm with an infrared camera to measure the light reflecting off of bell peppers. The infrared can help farmers identify “at-risk” plants, which will help them determine what measures need to be taken before long-term damage occurs. Estrada’s sister, Allasas Estrada, also uses an infrared camera; however, her model is a rover, and it detects drought stress from the ground. Ultimately both models will help farmers deal with a problem that has plagued Central Valley farmers for decades. “The $50,000 I won is going to be for a scholarship for college. Right now, my main focus is continuing to improve my project for the future because I already have some plans for what I want to do with my project later,” Estrada said. Both siblings hope to team up during next year’s science fair as high school students.