A previous article reported the winner of the 2014 Young Scientist Challenge (YSC) as America’s Top Young Scientist, 14-year-old Sahil Doshi. The video with the article portrayed the United States making huge budget cuts in science departments. Fortunately, companies like 3M and Discovery Education are taking actions to encourage bright young Americans to follow their passion for science and make it their life’s work, as they reach an age when that interest may get diverted. Previous winners have become speakers to members of Congress, pursued science academic careers, and now work with top U.S. scientists.
Employed at the 3M Corporate Research Process Laboratory in St. Paul, Minnesota, Dr. James Jonza was the science mentor to Sahil Doshi in the YSC challenge. Dr. Jonza has a Ph.D. in Polymer Science and Engineering and has worked on “nanolayer coextrusion of optical films, anti-counterfeiting, and tough and lightweight materials” since going to work for 3M. He has mentored three TYS students, Deepika Karup in 2012, Srijay Kasturi in 2013, and Sahil Doshi in 2014.
Dr. Jonza typically asks many questions of the students and says “the kids will come up with ideas if I ask enough of them.” He says he did not have that much input into Sahil’s prototype battery fueled by carbon dioxide since Sahil already knew that he wanted to use carbonic acid for his power source. Watch the bio video that shows exactly what Sahil did with his battery.
When asked if 3M is working on similar projects to Sahil’s carbon dioxide battery, Dr. Jonza replied that 3M has a fuel cell project in the works. The company has a Renewable Energy Division with both energy conservation and generation goals. One of 3M’s reflective films was used “to concentrate only the useful portion of sunlight onto solar panels, and not reflect the wavelengths that would have heated up the solar module and lowered its efficiency.” Regarding greenhouse gas emissions, polymer engineer Dr. Jonza has many opportunities to decrease weight in trains, planes, buses, cars, trucks, boats, etc. in order to reduce GGE’s.
Participating middle school students in the U.S. each created a one to two-minute video “communicating the science behind a possible solution to an everyday problem.” The panel of judges reviewed the video entries and selected ten finalists based on creativity, scientific knowledge, persuasiveness and overall presentation of the entry submitted. The finalists were each able to work directly with a 3M scientist during a summer mentorship program where they could either move forward with their video entry project or choose something different. The 3M mentors provided guidance from idea development to creation of the actual prototype presented at the final competition and discussed with the students how to “take the innovation to the next level.”
The 3M Innovation Center where the YSC students were able to meet their mentors in person after only working with them virtually during the summer of 2014, and where they presented their challenges, has been described as being like Disney’s Epcot. When Dr. Jonza was asked why, he replied, ” the 3M Innovation Center showcases the vast array of technologies (>40) that we work with to produce products that improve the world. It is fun to see the 10 YSC finalists eyes bug-out when they get to come and try out the demonstrations.”
Jason Campagne, the Communications Manager for the 3M Innovation Center, said, “Comparing the 3M Innovation Center to Disney’s Epcot Center is a common connection that our customers will make. I believe that the reason they say this is because the Innovation Center is a place were they can explore science and technology in an engaging and interactive way.” This is what today’s students so comfortable with electronic technology need to excite their interest and increase learning potential.
The 2014 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge was the 16th annual event. Ten finalists were selected from hundreds of video entries. The 2014 Top Young Scientist, Sahil Doshi, was awarded $25,000 and a student adventure trip to Costa Rica. The second, third and fourth place winners each won $1,000 and a trip to Costa Rica, with the remaining six finalists receiving $1,000 plus a $500 gift certificate to Discovery Experiences. Discovery Education is the leading curriculum-based digital content for the classroom provider. All ten students experienced a gift of a lifetime in the encouragement of their love for science, touring the Innovation Center and being mentored by scientists working in the field in real life.
A big round of applause and thank you to Discovery Education and 3M for giving their money, time, and busy professional employees to encourage these young minds working on solutions to some of the world’s major problems and to promote science communication skills.
Congratulations to the finalists:
FIrst Place: Sahil Doshi, Pittsburgh, Penn.
Second Place: Katherine Wu, North Potomac, Md.
Third Place: Jai Kumar, South Riding, Va.
Fourth Place: Christopher Isozaki, Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.
and the remaining six finalists in alphabetical order:
Mythri Ambatipudi, San Jose, Calif.
David Cohen, Dallas, Texas
Ana Humphrey, Alexandria, Va.
Anthony Kim, Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.
Andrew Masek, North Attleborough, Mass.
Nikita Rafikov, Evans, Ga.