Matthew Werneken

Matthew Werneken graduated from the Palm Harbor University High School International Baccalaureate Program in 2020, and is headed to Columbia Engineering to further his Materials Science and Physics explorations. As a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Young Scholar and College Scholar, Matthew credits his success to the global JKCF community and service mindset he adopted from his peers.

Through the Cooke Foundation, Matthew was awarded opportunities to dive into research over his high school summers. Most recently, his research in the graduate lab of The UConn Kasi Group spurred his ambitions in Materials Science. Over the summer, Matthew studied under graduate students to synthesize and characterize Norbornene-based liquid crystalline polymers. In these investigations, he trained in various thermal analysis and purification techniques to draw conclusions on LC properties and practical applications. In the past, Matthew studied and authored a research paper on photolithography and flexible substrates at UC: Santa Barbara and wrote his own Extended Essay investigating liquid crystalline polymers through nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

Matthew’s extracurricular life has long cycled between rabbit-hole-endeavors in STEM and entrepreneurship. As a member of the 2019 FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) World Champion Team (Houston WAC 3101), he practiced in nearly every role of robotics expertise throughout his four high school years. In 2020, he chose to leave the World Champion team for a new responsibility in engineering design and documentation for a freshman FTC team. In this role, he designed and authored a 300+ page Engineering Notebook that earned his new team the First Place INSPIRE Award for the FL Gulf Coast League and qualified them to the State Championship above the reigning World Champions. In his Junior year, Matthew also led his team of four in the Next Generation Tech (NGT) program, where Tampa Bay students compete in a 7-month, “Shark Tank”-style entrepreneurship competition. With his product InSite, he won First Place alongside a $10,000 business grant and product pitch to Season 1 “Shark” Kevin Harrington. Since then, Matthew has worked as the sole volunteer intern for ConnectIT-360, the parent nonprofit to NGT, and continues to do so today as the student perspective to an expanding program throughout the state of Florida.

To satisfy his entrepreneurial cravings, Matthew turned to the Future Business Leaders of America. After enjoying his time at Relay for Life events and networking among his district, he tooks on positions as National Social Media Ambassador and then Executive Director of Programs on the FBLA National President’s Council. A few of his FBLA comrades joined Matthew in creating the inaugural [email protected] in October 2019, where he hosted eight speakers from across FL on topics from Living Through the Bosnian Genocide to Water Virus Research. While projects like TEDx often fill Matthew’s spare hours, his time becoming an Eagle Scout guides him outdoors to camping, kayaking or road tripping the East Coast when feeling restless.