You could call them child or teen prodigies – wunderkinds, who at remarkable young ages have already begun making their mark upon science and technology as innovators and visionaries. The USA Science & Engineering Festival not only applauds such young achievers, but is recruiting some of the best of them to serve on its new Youth Advisory Board.
The achievements of these recently-appointed board members will not only help us further excite, inspire and reach out to more students during Festival 2014, but will also call attention to the impressive cadre of young talent that is on the horizon nationwide in STEM innovation and entrepreneurship.
Here are just some of the remarkable innovators who will be serving on our Youth Advisory Board:
Param Jaggi, 18 – Keenly curious about the world around him since childhood, at age 12 he began formally researching environmental and energy technologies, and at age 14, he designed a highly effective algae bio-reactor using household materials. His achievements in green technology research have garnered him numerous honors, including being featured twice in Forbes magazine's 30 Under 30 List, and recognition from the Environmental Protection Agency. A junior at Vanderbilt University (where he is majoring in Environmental Sustainability and Economics), last summer Param founded EcoViate, a green-tech start up that focuses on inexpensive, efficient, and disposable green products.
Jack Andraka, 16 –This Baltimore high-school student recently set the medical science community abuzz by developing an innovative diagnostic test that detects pancreatic cancer and is 368 times more sensitive, 150 times quicker and 26,000 times cheaper than the medical standard, at age 15. This research innovation earned him over $100,000, including the grand prize of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Youth Award. Jack was recently named a White House Champion of Change and is the founder and president of Gen Z, a team of young people competing for the Qualcomm Tricorder X-Prize. He has spoken at TED and Clinton Global Initiative, and serves on the faculty of Singularity University. He has also been featured in several award-winning documentaries and over 100 news media outlets around the world including Forbes, BBC, CNN, Fox and ABC. Jack is also serving as a Nifty Fifty speaker for Festival 2014.
Ritankar Das, 18 Chair – Not only did this California native complete a double major in Bioengineering and Chemical Biology from UC Berkeley in 3 years, he became the youngest student in at least a century to be named the year's top graduating senior. An Academic Senator at Berkeley, Das helped manage a $1.7 Billion budget and founded the Berkeley Chemical Review research journal. Lauded by the Smithsonian as a future Nobel Laureate, Das began scientific research at the age of 12, and has won over a dozen top scientific awards. He has also earned over 30 other awards totaling more than $400,000 including the prestigious Goldwater, Udall, and Pearson awards. He is featured in over 100 media outlets worldwide and in an upcoming National Geographic documentary. A current Whitaker fellow at Oxford and an inductee into the prestigious Berkeley Wall of Fame, Ritankar founded See Your Future, an education NGO that reaches 75 million people worldwide. He is currently authoring a book on education reform and is a celebrity partner for the UN World Food Program.
Sara Volz –This next-generation scientist made national news when she won the coveted $100,000 prize in the 2013 Intel Science Talent Search for inventing a method to boost the natural oil content of algae for alternative fuel development. Equally amazing, Sara (who is also serving as a Nifty Fifty speaker for Festival 2014), conducted her groundbreaking research from a laboratory constructed in her bedroom! She is currently a freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with plans to follow her passion for biochemistry.
Omar Abudayyeh – His research interests are at the intersection of engineering and biology where he is developing better tools to explore such realms as cancer, liver fibrosis and neuronal plasticity. Omar is currently an MD/Ph.D. student at Harvard Medical School where he is a 2013 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow and graduated in 2012 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a Henry Ford II Scholar. He earned a perfect 5.0 GPA as a mechanical and bio-engineering major, was editor-in-chief of the MIT Undergraduate Research Journal and co-president of the MIT Bioengineering Society.Following his freshman year at MIT, Omar worked with an NIH research team on the design of a vaccine based on engineered nanoparticles. In subsequent nanoparticle research he helped design sensitive tests for cancer and liver fibrosis, which led to co-authorship of a paper in Nature Biotechnology and presentations at scientific conferences. Omar is also passionate about entrepreneurship and building organizations, and to that end he recently co-founded Modalyst, a business-to-business online wholesale platform for connecting designers and boutiques, and the Harvard Medical Review, a peer-reviewed journal for student written articles.
Jonny Cohen – An 18 year-old Columbia University Mechanical Engineering Student. In 7th grade Jonny used his curiosity and prowess in science to invent an aerodynamically shaped air shield (known as Greenshield) for the front of school buses that reduces bus fuel use by 10%. The GreenShield redirects the airflow, decreases drag and increases gas mileage, saving money for school districts and decreasing CO2 emissions. Jonny has been recognized for the Forbes "30 Under 30" Energy List in 2012, and 2013.
Adora Svitak, 16 – Since the age of four, Adora Svitak has been exploring what she can do with the written word: everything from championing literacy and youth voice to raising awareness about world hunger. Hoping to instill her love of learning in other children, she taught her first class at a local elementary school the year her first book, Flying Fingers, debuted; since then, she has spoken at hundreds of schools, classrooms and conferences around the world. She co-authored her second book, Dancing Fingers—a collection of poetry—with her older sister Adrianna in 2009. At 12, she delivered the speech "What Adults Can Learn from Kids" at the prestigious TED conference. That video received over one million views and has been translated into over 40 different languages.