The regional science fair gave Marissa Jordan, 14, an excuse to build a robot in the spring. This month, her creation was selected as a semifinalist in a national competition.
Jordan's soft robotic hand was among 300 projects selected from about 2,500 entries in the national Broadcom Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering Rising Stars competition.
The Society for Science and the Public holds the science, technology, engineering and math contest.
The home-schooled student from Ignacio built the robot for the San Juan Basin Regional Science Fair as an eighth-grader.
"I had really been wanting to build a robot, and the science fair gave me an excuse to do it," said Jordan, who is now a freshman at Southwest Colorado eSchool.
The robotic gripper, which uses air compressors to inflate its fingers, won second place at regionals and first at state in engineering. The first place earned her the opportunity to enter the Broadcom contest, she said.
The top 30 Broadcom finalists will be selected this week and compete in Washington, D.C., in October for cash prizes.
Jordan plans to use her soft robotic hand to make a glove for those with disabilities to give them more use of their hands, she said.
"I just wanted to use my project in a way that could help someone," she said of the inspiration for the glove.
The hand wasn't her first venture into robotics. Two years ago for the science fair, she built a belt intended to help blind people navigate. The belt was designed to sense objects and vibrate to indicate the location of obstacles, she said.
While she enjoys robotics, she may pursue a career that involves equine therapy, horse training and teaching horseback riding.