When’s the last time you heard a 13 year-old kid say something like “I hope to be a computational bio-scientist” and then go on to explain something called protein glycation with a big smile on her face?
Or how about an 11 year-old who says “I would like to be an architect. I spend a lot of time drafting the ideas of houses of the future that will be interesting for people to live in.”
13, and 11. And they’re serious.
The former is Mythri Ambatipudi, an eighth-grader from California; and the latter is Nikita Rafikov, a sixth-grader from Georgia; and they’re just two of the ten impressive finalists in this year’s Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.
The annual contest, open to students grades 5-8, launched in 1999 and has introduced the world to a slew of promising young minds. And what most impresses me about these kids—beyond the confidence, intelligence and applied knowledge on display—is how nearly all of them seem to have been moved to action by a desire to solve some real-world problem. Take, for example, last year’s winner, Peyton Robertson. At age 11, the South Florida resident saw the need for a better sandbag to combat weather-related flooding. He got right to work, and to make a long story short, he went on to make not only a better sandbag, but national headlines.
At age 11.
This year’s finalists are spending the summer being mentored by 3M scientists. In October, they’ll travel to 3M headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota to compete for the title of America’s Top Young Scientist.
So, teachers and parents, if you’re looking for a way to inspire your own budding scientists, you can start by introducing them to these ten inspiring young people. Then encourage them to take part in 2015′s Young Scientist Challenge. The call for entries opens in January.
—Stephen Vincent D’Emidio
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