CK High Senior Named U.S. Presidential Scholar
What Is a U.S. Presidential Scholar Like?
Posted on 05/06/2016
Maddison Largey near a laser printer and computer

By the Numbers

3.3 million
Expected number of high school graduates in 2016

5,600 
Students who qualified to be U.S. Presidential Scholars

160 
Number of scholars

0.005 
Percent of Class of 2106 named Presidential Scholars

In June, Madison Largey will get a presidential medallion.  

The Central Kitsap High senior will receive the honor from U.S. Secretary of Education John King on behalf of President Barack Obama.

She gets it by way of an exploding prototype, working with a team to design a complex sorting machine. And, most importantly, by being named a U.S. Presidential Scholar.

Largey is one of 160 high school seniors named Presidential Scholars. Largey is one of 20  honored for accomplishments in career and technical education. Of 3.3 million high school graduates nationwide, only 5,600 qualified as Presidential Scholar candidates.

When I was doing my application for this, it just felt so far off, that I didn’t even have a chance, you know?” Largey said.

Others were more confident.

"Maddie has truly been one of the most amazing students in Central Kitsap High School’s recent history,” said CK High Principal Stephen Coons. “Her leadership and talent across so many programs was a delight to witness.”

She will fly to Washington, D.C. on June 19.

Read a Q&A with her to learn all about her path there.

How did you find out you won?

My technology teacher, Jim Adamson, saw it and sent me a text saying, “Congratulations.” I thought he was talking about scholarships I had recently gotten. But then Mr. Coons gave me a call with congratulations.

I was totally freaking out. I was at my house with my mom. We flipped out, we were totally excited.

How did you become interested in computer science and engineering?

My dad is a senior engineering manager at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. My family is pretty techie. Both of my uncles are engineering nerds, so it’s sort of been in the family.

When I came to the high school my 10th grade year, I joined SkillsUSA and First Robotics. That was the really big push for me.

We competed at regional, state and then Nationals. We got third at Nationals. We made a robot that would take all of our nuts, bolts and screws, use an image detection type of thing, then drop the pieces into a compartment. It got really complicated, as we learned. We got to do some programming and wiring. Building our prototype, we got to use the 3-D printer and the laser engraver. We were all taking CAD (computer-assisted drafting). You could model the parts and then print them out, and they’d be done in a couple hours. It was just a really awesome class and environment to build the project in.

The following year, I was with a new team. We decided to address home water storage. You have to refresh your water storage every six months or it just goes bad. We designed a water storage tank that could hook up behind your washing machine so that you take the fill line that would connect to the machine. Every time the water rushes through its cycle, it keeps the water fresh.

Did you market it (and talk about explosions)?

...it exploded everywhere. It made a huge mess. It was awesome — and terrible.

It was a little makeshift, we had to buy our own materials. We hooked it up in my laundry room. I didn't know that we had a really high PSI in our house — and it exploded everywhere. It made a huge mess. It was awesome — and terrible (my parents were kind of annoyed).

When we got to nationals (SkillsUSA competition), we had the prototype on a circuit where a water pump would run the water through it like a fake washing machine because we didn't have access to running water. We filled the thing up in the bathroom with coffee cups, and we lugged it out.

When we set everything up at my house, my dad had tightened the connections. So when we put it together in our hotel again, we hadn't gotten it as tight. When we turned it back on, it started spraying everywhere and all the connections were loose. It was embarrassing because all of the judges could see us. We were making this huge water puddle in the middle of the concrete exhibition center.

It was actually a blessing because we’d had a false sense of confidence having done well the year before. It was humbling and humiliating, but for the rest of the week, we tried that much harder to be at the top of our game. We were not anticipating placing, but we got second. I don't know that we would have done as well if we hadn't had that push.

We didn’t take it further [to marketing it commercially]. I look back on it, and I wonder if we should have gone further. It was just a cool ideas to have, and we have all the documentation still just sitting on my flash drive with all the details and plans involving it.

Was there a teacher who had a strong influence on your life?

Maddison Largey with teacher Jim Adamson

Mr. Adamson, James Adamson. He was our SkillsUSA coach, and he was always pushing me. He pushed me to do leadership competitions, as well as SkillsUSA.

He was our First Robotics instructor too. He was always there with us after school, teaching us the electrical components. He taught me how to weld. It was just a crazy amount of dedication. He went to all of our competitions and was always super excited and fun, and pushed us to go be crazy.

I feel like he just really loves teaching. He always tells us stories about his past students and what they're doing. It's really inspiring to hear that we could have the potential to go out and do really great things.

What will you do after high school?

I'm going to Stanford. I have heard from most of the people going there that you come in with one idea of what you want to do and come out with another.

I'm definitely open to whatever I really enjoy and think would be an interesting career. I’m even open to going to law school and doing patent law, so we’ll see what happens.

What excites you most about your trip to Washington, D.C.?

When I found out, what I was most excited about was the chance to go and meet other people who are going to be really distinguished. Even just going to visit my college, I was already feeling that it's really amazing to be in company with people who have done so many amazing things.

I’m just so overwhelmed and excited.