Meet the Innovation Generation: 3M Young Scientist Winners

On Tuesday, October 17th Gitanjali Rao became America’s Top Young Scientist by winning the 2017 3M Young Scientist Challenge. Gitanjali is working to develop Tethys, a sensor-based device that can detect lead in water faster than other current techniques.

Rather than using expensive equipment for testing, Gitanjali’s cost-effective approach to water safety uses a mobile app that populates the water’s status almost immediately. Tethys is designed to be portable and easy to use, allowing individuals to test water safety whenever needed. She hopes to solve the water contamination crisis and decrease long-term health effects from lead exposure.

A seventh-grader at STEM School and Academy, Gitanjali competed alongside nine other finalists during a live competition at the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minn. She was awarded the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist” as well as a $25,000 prize.

The second, third and fourth runners-up also received a trip to a taping of a show on Discovery’s family of networks.

  • Rithvik Ganesh, an eighth-grader at C.M. Rice Middle School from Plano, Texas, received second place. Rithvik built upon existing research to conduct tests and identify one lead molecule from Apigenin, a compound found in fruits and vegetables, that could potentially be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Looking forward, Rithvik hopes to take his findings through in vitro and in vivo testing and improve thousands of lives affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Kathryn Lampo, a ninth-grader at Legacy High School in Broomfield, Colo., received third place. Kate created Lawn Bot, a water management robot designed to help individuals reduce the amount of fresh water wasted during home lawn care. Kate’s innovation aims to be a more cost-effective and aesthetic water management system that measures the moisture content in the soil. Made from starch-based plastic and powered by solar energy, Lawn Bot is also environmentally friendly. Kate hopes her innovation will help reduce the amount of fresh water wasted.
  • Devin Willis, a ninth-grader from Florida Atlantic University High School in Boca Raton, Fla., received fourth place. Devin created SLIDEMAP, a device that integrates a motorized stage used in 3-D printers, microscope imaging, and machine learning algorithms to distinguish a tumor as cancerous or benign, increasing accuracy and speed of diagnoses. Devin was inspired to improve the state of treatment after his grandfather passed away from cancer, and tapped into his passion for robotics to develop a solution. He hopes his innovation will improve current standards of global healthcare by enabling faster, more accurate and affordable diagnoses, especially in developing countries where access to medical professionals is scarce.

All of the finalists collaborated with some of 3M’s leading scientists, who provided guidance as they worked through the scientific method to advance their ideas from a theoretical concept into a physical prototype. Together, the 3M mentors and finalists shared their passion for science, reviewed the scientific process and worked virtually through pre-assigned objectives, with resources and support provided by 3M and Discovery Education.

Watch the Top Ten Present their Innovations Here!

Need some activities to spark innovative ideas with your students? Take a look at our Innovating Your Future series. These are real-world research prompts paired with quick classroom activities.


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