7 Great Young Minds in STEM

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The future of innovation in the global economy is built firmly on a foundation of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

Leaders in STEM can be found in just about every industry and business sector. Not surprisingly, these innovators often find a springboard for their work while they are still in school. We’ve gathered seven of today’s great young minds in STEM we think you’ll be hearing about for years to come.

Fudong Fan

Fudong, a student at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va., won the first place prize in the 2015 High School division for his essay: Out with the Old, Silicon, in with the New, Graphene.

My code is intended to replicate complex atomic systems and calculate their physical properties…. Over the past three summers, I have worked relentlessly to make graphene not just a reality, but also a viable and practical upgrade from the silicon architecture we currently employ in integrated circuits.”

Sonja Michaluk

Sonja, a student at Timberlane Middle School in Pennington, N.J. won the first place prize in the Junior High division of the Dupont Challenge for her essay: Because Salamanders Cannot Speak for Themselves.

“As a community, how do we reconcile our collective desire for the comforts of civilization with the understanding of the consequences?” wrote Sonja in her essay. “What if we could create simulations in the lab and build algorithms with field data that help us understand the real impact of development, from the stream bed, to small invertebrates, to fish and ecosystems? What if we could see potential impacts of our decisions and have a more informed discussion?”

Olivia Thomas

Many young students discover their passion for STEM at the confluence of entertainment and education. Olivia Thomas, winner of the 2015 National STEM Video Game Challenge, is a perfect example.

The video competition — inspired by the Obama Administration’s Educate to Innovate Campaign — was developed to promote STEM-related educational endeavors.

Olivia earned her grand prize award by turning a “bug” in Gamestar Mechanic’s programming into a “feature.”

According to the judges of the STEM Challenge: “Olivia’s game, Colorless, blew us away thanks to sharp level design and a very clever game mechanic. By taking advantage of a quirk in Gamestar Mechanic’s programming that allows you to “overlap” one sprite on top of another (something that you are ordinarily not allowed to do), Colorless trains the player to associate colors with different abilities, and then challenges the player later on by taking the color away.”

Han Jie Wang

Han Jie, a student at David Thompson Secondary school in Vancouver, British Columbia, won the top award in 2016 from Society for Science & the Public (Society), in partnership with the Intel Foundation.

Han Jie was recognized for his work on microbial fuel cell technology. Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are devices that use bacteria to catalyze the conversion of waste into electricity,” wrote Han in an abstract of his paper, Boosting MFC Biocatalyst Performance: A Novel Gene Identification and Consortia Engineering Approach.

Syamantak Payra

Syamantak, a student at Clear Brook High School in Friendswook, Texas, won a 2016 “Young Scientist Award” from Intel Foundation for her development of an innovative orthopedic device.

In her project, outlined in Brace Yourself: A Novel Electronically Aided Leg OrthosiSyamantak developed an electronically-aided orthosis that restores natural walking gait by actively rotating the knee joint.

This inexpensive device, she wrote, “alleviates problems faced by Knee-Ankle-Foot-Orthoses wearers, restoring a natural, comfortable, safe walking gait – increasing mobility, decreasing pain, and greatly improving the quality of life.”

Kathy Liu

Kathy, a student at West High School in Salt Lake City, Utah, was another 2016 award winner in the Young Scientist competition. Her work focuses on improving the performance of rechargeable batteries.

Her project, summarized in the paper Nature-Based Solid Polymer Electrolytes for Improved Safety, Sustainability, and Efficiency in High-Performance Rechargeable Batteries, offers an innovative solution for developing sustainable battery technology.

“Redesigning battery liquid electrolytes into solid polymer electrolytes (SPEs) can drastically improve safety by preventing battery fires caused by flammable liquids, decrease cost, and enable lightweight and flexible designs,” she wrote. “Leveraging a sucrose base demonstrates a uniquely efficient, low-cost, and environmentally friendly SPE host, setting forth scalability with a high capability for more powerful, secure, and sustainable next-generation energy storage.”

Vikas Maturi

Vikas, a student at Carmel Senior High School in Carmel, Indiana, won a 2015 award in The Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology.

His project focused on developing a new device for reducing pain and discomfort from intraocular injections. In his abstract, Vikas concluded: “Patients find the IIG [device] to be less painful than the traditional speculum, and decreased discomfort generally leads to better compliance with treatment. There is interest in large scale production via injection molding.

These seven students are proof that the future is bright for continued advances in science and technology.

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