Francesca Legaspi and Daniel Yacoubian will find out next week if they will be one of 30 finalists competing for the $25,000 prize, provided by the Samueli Foundation.
Francesca, who attends Incarnation School in Glendale, and Daniel, of Gregory Hovsepian School in Pasadena, applied to compete in the elite competition after performing well in science fairs at their respective schools, as well as fairs held by Los Angeles County and the California State Science Fair last spring.
“I’m really happy and honored to be a national semi-finalist,” Francesca said. “Especially since they selected only 300 [students] out of 6,000.”
During the last school year, Francesca experimented with different methods for creating earthquake stability in buildings.
She learned about installing internal structures to absorb movement and using a cross-bracing method that relies on diagonal structures on walls. Applying both methods to one building improved stability by 263%.
Meanwhile, Daniel — the nephew of Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian — learned that cooling solar panels produces more energy. He discovered it after he connected tubes to capture air blowing out from an air conditioner, diverting that air to the panels to lower their temperature.
“One day I was cleaning solar panels with my mom. It was extremely hot. I burned my finger. I wondered if there was a way to cool the solar panels by redirecting that blown air to the solar panels,” he said.
For Daniel, coming this far is a major success.
“If I make it, that would be huge. If I didn’t, I would still be proud of myself no matter what happens,” he said.
Maro Yacoubian, Daniel’s mother, said she is proud of both Glendale students, who have still not yet met each other.
“It’s really mind-blowing,” she said. “The city should be completely proud that they’ve got two residents who have gotten that far.”
Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.