Five Questions with Jacqueline Prawira, Winner of the Marconi/Samueli Award for Innovation | Society for Science & the Public
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Five Questions with Jacqueline Prawira, Winner of the Marconi/Samueli Award for Innovation

November 28, 2018
Jacqueline shares her research during the Project Showcase at the National Geographic Society
PHOTO COURTESY OF LINDA DOANE/SOCIETY FOR SCIENCE & THE PUBLIC

Jacqueline is a high school freshman from Mountain House, California and the winner of the 2018 Broadcom MASTERS Marconi/Samueli Award for Innovation. In her spare time she practices Taekwondo. More information about Jacqueline and her project can be found here.

Who, if anyone, is your fictional STEM idol (Iron Man, Sandy Cheeks, etc.)?

Hermione from the Harry Potter series is definitely my true fictional STEM idol. She is a regular girl that defies the odds to become an extraordinary wizard. Not only does she excel in wizardry, but she is also better than Harry Potter, in my opinion. She is proactive and prepared for anything that comes her way, whether it be a war or a written exam. She also truly appreciates learning new things every day. Unlike most superheroes, who use their physical strength to defeat the villain, she uses her brainpower to outsmart them. We even share similar traits! We are crazy about reading books, never giving up and always putting forth our best effort in everything we do.

Jacqueline and her fictional STEM idol Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series
PHOTO COURTESY OF JESSICA YORINKO/SOCIETY FOR SCIENCE & THE PUBLIC

What would you invent if you had all the money in the world?

I would invent a sustainable home with a green roof that would be capable of growing organic food, filter any pollutants and recycle waste. With all the money in the world, I would subsidize this home as affordable housing for everyone to live in. This home would have multiple layers filter out air pollution and maintain a constant temperature.

The lower part of the home would be constructed underground to take advantage of geothermal energy, insulating the house and providing an accessible place to compost.

The upper part of the house would be covered with beds of greenery that function as insulators and a source of organic produce. An irrigation system would collect rainwater and circle the house vertically from roof to ground. At the same time, the system would recycle graywater for watering plants and flushing the toilet.

Inspired by where I live now (close to a wind farm), this home would definitely harness wind energy through small vertical axis wind turbines, which would be designed to blend in with the trees and landscape. This sustainable home would minimize the environmental footprint and help people to live longer lives. This is especially important for people with health conditions such as food and seasonal allergies or poor immune systems.

Which moment in your life made you feel the most accomplished?

Earning my black belt (2016) in Taekwondo was the proudest moment of my life. For years, I had been training hard. As you may know, size is not my forte, and sparring can be challenging with stronger and bigger kids.

I survived all-day testing, from 6am-4pm in San Francisco. They pushed us to the limit with a 2.7 mile run across the Golden Gate Bridge, 1.5 hours of training at the Palace of Fine Arts, 1 hour of training at the beach and running across the marshy sand, and an additional 1.5 hours of training at the bunkers, where we hiked all the way to the top carrying all of our gear.

The “best part” was the windy thunderstorm that day. So, yep, I was running in the freezing rain and wind. I was deeply satisfied and proud that I had beaten the odds and passed the testing. Not too bad for a tiny but feisty girl like me.

Jacqueline and her team compete in the Raspberry Pi challenge at the 2018 Broadcom MASTERS
PHOTO COURTESY OF LINDA DOANE/SOCIETY FOR SCIENCE & THE PUBLIC

What would you tell your 5-year-old self if you could talk to them today?

Little Jacqueline, you are way stronger than you think. Never underestimate your true potential. Remember, your name means overcomer. You won’t believe how many hurdles you will conquer in the next eight years. So, be strong and courageous! Also, keep taking your vitamins and don’t be so picky when eating. Only then, will you be healthy and grow taller.

What's next for you?

Understanding that it's never too early to plan for the future, I admit this question is a challenging one to answer. My future is ever-changing and my dreams are evolving as I grow up.

I used to want to be an allergy doctor, driven by a desire to cure my own allergies and to help other kids who share similar symptoms. Then, after exploring the Planetarium, I was star-struck. Becoming an astronaut like Mae Jemison and exploring outer space was my new obsession. Everything about stars and living on other planets fascinated me.

As I hit my teen years, responsibility and chores became a greater part of my life. I became more aware of my environment and how my actions could make or break our world. Becoming an environmental engineer is my passion now—to help our dying world recuperate by finding alternative solutions.

As far as my future plans, nothing has been set in stone yet. But no matter what dream my heart follows, I always want to be part of the solution. Whether as a scientist, engineer or politician, my dream is to always bring a positive impact in the present and future.

In the meantime, I will continue to grow and further my education so that I’m ready for what life has in store for me.