CASA GRANDE — Merlin D’Souza has always liked science. And at age 15, the Casa Grande Union High School sophomore will be among the youngest presenters at the eighth annual Arizona SciTech Festival conference Oct. 3 in Mesa.

During the conference, she’ll talk about the ever-growing STEM field and the new careers it has created.

“There are so many careers that exist today that didn’t exist 20 years ago and the list is always growing,” she said. “My session is designed to help students prepare for these jobs or to help teachers and parents prepare their students for all the possibilities.”

D’Souza will moderate a panel discussion with professionals of various backgrounds who are in the forefront of science, technology, engineering, and math innovation.

“Some of the jobs students can prepare for are in bio-ethics, drone technology, analytics, bio-tech, and organ development, where organs are grown in labs (rather than harvested from donors),” she said. “It’s exciting that science and technology can provide the solutions to many of the issues faced by humanity.”

D’Souza said she has always been an outside-of-the-box thinker. She hopes to become a medical researcher someday or a doctor working to solve various medical issues.

CGUHS and its robotics club and science program are helping her prepare for that future, she said.

The school’s robotics team, the Mecha Knights, regularly takes part in competitive events in which they design a machine and use it to complete various competition tasks.

“Robotics is a sport,” D’Souza said. “It requires teamwork, setting goals, problem-solving, and we score points at competitions.”

D’Souza is also working with a student-led team that is applying for a Lemelson-MIT innovation grant that provides up to $10,000 to invent a technological solution for the real world.

The team worked throughout the Labor Day holiday weekend to submit the grant application online.

“They were here for 10 hours on Saturday and again on Sunday, but they got the application submitted on time,” said John Morris, math and engineering teacher at CGUHS and coach of the robotics team. “They are a dedicated group of students.”

He said it’s an honor to have a student from CGUHS presenting at the conference.

“Based on what I have seen, she is the only student presenting. All others are adults,” Morris said.

The Arizona SciTech Festival conference brings together the state’s key stakeholders for the largest collaborative STEM conference in Arizona. An estimated 1,200 business, industry, education, government and community leaders are expected to attend the event, set for Oct. 3 at the Mesa Arts Center.

The event includes interactive panels, workshops, tables and three floors featuring 50 hands-on STEM exhibitions.

D’Souza said the conference is for all ages, especially young people who like various STEM topics.

“It’s a great way to learn more about STEM topics and see what others are doing,” she said.

D’Souza, of Casa Grande, is the daughter of Moses and Teodolina D’Souza.


Retrieved from AUDE, MELISSA ST. “CGUHS Student among Youngest Presenters at This Year’s SciTech Conference.”, 6 Sept. 2018,

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