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Scott G Winterton, KSL

Sterling Scholars: Top winner created robotic intermediary between police, civilians

By Marjorie Cortez, KSL | Posted - Mar. 13, 2018 at 10:39 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Does Skyline High School senior Vikrant Ragula ever sleep?

He has a 4.0 grade point average. He's the president or vice president of five clubs at his high school. He debates and he's a mentor to several students. He enjoys traveling, reading, gardening and inventing.

He created a robot called PoliceBot to act as an intermediary between police and civilians at routine traffic stops intended to help enhance public safety. He's filed three patents.

This past fall, he and his twin brother Kanishka Ragula (more about him later) actively campaigned for Granite School District's school construction bond issue. Voters approved the $238 million bond, which includes funding to rebuild what will soon be the Ragula brothers' alma mater, along with more than a dozen other construction projects.

Recently, he was accepted to the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

On Tuesday night, he added another accomplishment to his resume: General Sterling Scholar of the 2018 Deseret News/KSL Sterling Scholar Program.

Ragula won the business and marketing category. His brother Kanishka Ragula, also a Skyline High senior, was runner-up in computer technology. He's headed to Penn, too.

Despite his many accomplishments, Vikrant Ragula expressed surprise at the outcome of the evening.

"It was really surprising because I didn't expect it. I was really surprised at the beginning when I won my category because that was unexpected. It was just nice to top it off with the general (scholarship). That is biggest highlight for me," he said.

The 56th annual Sterling Scholar Program encourages academic excellence by awarding scholarships and publicly recognizing some of Utah's top high school seniors.

Nominees were judged for their academic achievements as well as their leadership and service to their communities.

Sterling Scholar winners received $2,500 scholarships, and runners-up earned $1,000 each, which was provided by the Deseret News and KSL.

As the General Sterling Scholar, Ragula also won an additional $2,500 scholarship.

They also are eligible for scholarships and tuition waivers at a number of Utah colleges and universities.

Keith B. McMullin, president and CEO of Deseret Management Corp., after presenting the top award to Ragula remarked on the top-drawer character and scholarship of each of the student participants.

"Utah and this country are in good hands, don't you think?"

More than 900 students from 79 high schools along the Wasatch Front were nominated for the honor by their respective high schools.

All participated in at least one round of judging, which determined the semifinalists. The finalists were selected among the semifinalists. The final judging, conducted at Westlake High School in Saratoga Springs on Feb. 27, led up to Tuesday’s award ceremony at the LDS Conference Center Little Theater.

Students competed in 14 categories. Winners were selected in each category and among them, a General Sterling Scholar was chosen

Ragula said the Sterling Scholar experience was worthwhile, "because I was able to meet new contacts and friends" and get better acquainted with the other finalists from his own school.

Students from Skyline High School won the top prize in three categories: business and marketing, English, and skilled and technical sciences.

Students from four Alpine School District high schools were selected the top scholars in four categories, two from Lone Peak High School.

Madi Riley, winner of the instrumental music category, said she felt "so humbled" by her selection.

"There were so many amazing, talented musicians. I'm so blessed to represent such a great school like Lone Peak. I'm just so humbled and so blessed I'm just speechless," Riley said.

The winners of the dance, speech, theater arts and forensics, and vocal music categories attend high schools in the Canyons School District.

Runners-up in the 14 categories came from traditional public high schools from Logan to Spanish Fork. They include Alpine, Box Elder, Canyons, Davis, Granite, Jordan, Logan, Nebo, Provo and Salt Lake City school districts.

Two runners-up attend public charter schools, American Preparatory Academy and the Academy for Math, Engineering and Science.

In addition to the academic awards, the program also awards the Zions Bank Community Service Award, which this year was won by Green Canyon High School senior Bethany Anderson.

Anderson, who has a 3.97 GPA, created an interactive musical program for senior citizens in Cache County. The community service award carries a $2,000 prize.

Northridge High School senior Makita Erni received the Philo T. Farnsworth Governor's Award that celebrates innovation. He has a 4.0 GPA and plans to become a mechanical engineer. He draws and designs "for fun and to solve problems," not just because it's a school assignment, he says. The award comes with a $1,000 prize.

Sometimes, just getting to the awards ceremony can be a challenge. Just ask Timpanogos High School’s Holly VanSchouwenburg, a finalist in the family and consumer science category. She got into a traffic accident en route to the ceremony, making a slight detour in an emergency room before arriving at the event on time.


Marjorie Cortez

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