Young scientist finalists—combined photo for web only—1-5 starting from left

Mehaa Amirthalingam (left) of Sugar Land, Texas, was one of the Indian American finalists named by Discovery Education and 3M in the 2018 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. The others are (l-r): Sriram Bhimaraju of Cupertino, Calif., who developed an app that improves an archer’s accuracy; Rishab Jain of Portland, Ore., created a method that uses artificial intelligence to help accurately locate the pancreas during MRI radiotherapy; Cameron Sharma of Virginia was named a finalist for creating a computer model that calculates the seasonal flu vaccine using artificial intelligence; and Georgia’s Krish Wadhwani is working towards hopefully finding a potential cure to Huntington’s Disease. ( photos)

Discovery Education and 3M June 21 announced the finalists for the 2018 competition for the nation’s Top Young Scientist, with half of the 10-person field being Indian American youngsters.

Among the finalists are Mehaa Amirthalingam of Sugar Land, Texas; Sriram Bhimaraju of Cupertino, Calif.; Rishab Jain of Portland, Ore.; Cameron Sharma of Glen Allen, Va.; and Krish Wadhwani of Alpharetta, Ga.

Other finalists announced were Anna Du of Andover, Mass.; Julia Gelfond of Chevy Chase, Md.; Zachary Hessler of Vero Beach, Fla.; Theodore Jiang of Santa Monica, Calif.; and Leo Wylonis of Berwyn, Pa.

The Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge recognizes students in grades 6 to 8 who exude curiosity in the scientific process and inspire peers to solve the biggest challenges of the present and future.

Students were invited to submit short videos that describe a new invention or idea that could solve or impact an everyday problem. Of the hundreds who entered, the judges selected 10 finalists for their exceptional science acumen, spirit of innovation and ingenuity, and effective communication skills demonstrated in their entry videos, the joint news release said.

“The Young Scientist Challenge has not only supported students in achieving their dreams, but it has also provided the 3M team with the opportunity to contribute to the future of science in a special way,” said Paul Keel, senior vice president of business development and marketing-sales at 3M.

“As we look toward the next chapter of 3M’s involvement in youth development, we are tremendously proud to be a part of shaping our next educators, entrepreneurs and inventors,” Keel added.

Mehaa, a 13-year-old eighth grader at Sartartia Middle School, was named a finalist for her novel toilet flushing system using grey water and fresh water.

She said in her bio that she hopes to be a patent-holding engineer before she turns 30. The young Indian American said, “Innovation should not degrade humanity for the sake of personal growth.”

Sriram, 12, of Harker Middle School, developed Archery Assistant, an app that improves an archer’s accuracy by correcting form in real-time using a Bluetooth sensor.

He said that his favorite invention of the last 100 years are Integrated Circuit chips because they bring innovation to the hands of young scientists.

“Without I.C. chips, none of the technology I used would be functional, and so many other great inventions would not exist,” Sriram, who wants to be a Nobel Laureate within 15 years, said. “People like me would not be able to make an impact on the world without the invention of the I.C. chip.”

A seventh grader at Stoller Middle School, Rishab, 13, was named a finalist for creating a method that uses artificial intelligence to help accurately locate the pancreas during MRI radiotherapy and make cancer treatment more effective.

The young scientist said that in 15 years he’d like to be a biomedical engineer or a doctor to keep developing technology to find a cure for cancer and improving people’s lives.

“Things become easy once you learn them. The monster of complex STEM problems can be tamed with experiments and trying again one more time!” he said in his bio.

Cameron, 14, an eighth-grade student at George H. Moody Middle School, was named a finalist for creating a computer model that calculates the seasonal flu vaccine using artificial intelligence and deep machine learning to identify personalized flu vaccines.

“The Young Scientist Challenge induced me to think about creating an innovative solution using my knowledge of virology, immunology, genetics, computer programming and math. That led to the creation of uFlu,” he said in his bio page.

Cameron said he hopes to become a biomedical engineer when he grows up.

Krish, a 14-year-old eighth grader at DeSana Middle School, hopes to cure Huntington’s Disease through an injectable medication using Synthetic Antibody Mimics to locate and attach to a specific protein found on the surface of cancer cells to ultimately eliminate Huntington’s disease.

He said in 15 years he hopes to be finishing up residency as he would like to become a neurosurgeon or cardiologist. 

"Being able to submit an entry about a topic that I am immensely interested in on such a magnificent scientific platform is truly incredible. Moreover, the fact of possibly working with a 3M Scientist that would harness the capabilities of my invention to the fullest level is fascinating," he said.

Finalists will have the opportunity to work one-on-one with 3M scientists during a summer mentorship program to develop their ideas into a working solution that has potential to positively impact their family, community or the global population.

Students meet virtually with their mentors, who provide guidance from concept to prototype.

All 10 finalists receive $1,000 and a trip to 3M headquarters in St. Paul, Minn., to participate in the final competition at the 3M Innovation Center during October 2018.

A panel of judges will evaluate finalists on a series of challenges, including a presentation of their completed innovation. Judges will score each challenge independently. The winner will receive $25,000, a trip to watch the taping of a Discovery Network show and the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist.”

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