The 3M Young Scientist Challenge is the most prestigious middle school science competition in the United States, and this year’s main prize went to a 14-year-old from San Diego, California.
Finsen Headphones were created by Leanne Fan; which are low-cost headphones that combine machine learning and blue light therapy to detect and cure mid-ear infections in children, thereby saving up to 60% of childhood hearing loss. What an awesome invention!
While Leanne was a finalist, she was paired with Dr. Ross Behling, a research specialist in 3M’s material laboratory, who helped her develop a prototype of her idea over the course of the summer.
After that, on two consecutive days in October, the nine finalists competed at the 3M headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota, presenting their final innovations. Here is her qualifying talk:
Mid-ear infections are prevalent, accounting for 700 million cases worldwide and approximately 21,000 fatalities yearly. Children from low-income families make up a sizable portion of the affected population. It can be tough to diagnose health problems and even more challenging to treat them if you don’t have access to medical care. Leanne’s creation is an antibiotic-free, low-cost means of diagnosing and treating middle ear infections.
A $25,000 cash prize, a vacation to a particular destination, and the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist” were awarded to the incoming high school freshman. She plans to use the money prize to pay for the first steps of getting a patent for the headphones.
By popular vote, Harini Venkatesh also won this year’s Improving Lives Award, given to the contest’s most promising idea. His current pet project, is an efficient and affordable method of quickly determining a patient’s myopic power. Her prototype would reduce wait times for patients, provide precise readings of myopic power in a matter of seconds, and remove room for error during eye examinations.
Both the runner-up and third-place finishers received $1,000 in cash and an exciting vacation. Among these outstanding students are:
Ventatesh, a New Hampshire native residing in Brentwood, finished in second. Third place went to Iowa City’s Shanza Sami, who developed a five-stage system to filter out polluted air.