These Finalists Want YOU to be America's Top Young Scientist

School is back in session. And while you may be gathering your supplies, wondering who will be in your classes, and pondering the perfect lab partner, the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge finalists are preparing for so much more. If you’ve been reading their summer blog posts and watching their videos, you know that they’ve been working with their 3M mentors to refine their project scope and execution in preparation for the October’s final competition.

Inspired to Succeed

Several of the 2018 finalists, including Krish Wadhwani and Leo Wylanis talk about the importance of passion in selecting a research topic. It’s what keeps them moving ahead with a sense of purpose when things get tough.

The 2017 finalists shared their wisdom with me to help inspire future young scientists like you, especially if who are considering entering the 2019 challenge.

America’s current Top Young Scientist, Gitanjali Rao, assures those aspiring to earn her title that, “There is no need for special expensive pieces of equipment, cameras, or even project space. All you need is hope and a passion to make a difference. Believe in yourself and do not be afraid to fail or even to try. ”

Like most of her peers, Allie Weber admits that it wasn’t always an easy path to the finals. But it was definitely a worthwhile pursuit. “There were really difficult times but now I can look back and say, ‘Hey, I did that!’” She adds, “You’d never know a two-minute video could change your life! Go for it!”

Laalitya Acharya is even more encouraging. Although she wasn’t selected as a finalist the first year she entered, she learned skills that helped her create a stronger entry her second year. She reminds students that “Just by submitting a video, you are giving yourself a chance at this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that truly will change your life!”

But Laalitya adds that the competition builds more than technical skills, “The challenge allows people who love science to meet people who work in science, and to meet other kids their age who love science. I made some really awesome friends! I also learned so much about 3M and how innovating works. Now I want to work in 3M when I grow up! So enter the Young Scientist Challenge because it will change the way you look at the world!”

Innovations Evolve

“I didn’t think my idea was all that great when I entered,” admits Kathryn Lampo, “But it evolved into something I’m proud of. Give it a shot. No matter the result, you will come out a better scientist and thinker, and motivated to do better the next time around. It’s important to remember that ideas are fluid. Just because your idea or project isn’t perfect right now doesn't mean it can’t be in the future. Innovations are things that evolve, not things that are stagnant.”

Keeping that advice in mind, Anika Bhagavatula offers additional encouragement while also circling back to the first piece of advice above. “The craziest and weirdest ideas are the ones that change the world, so never dismiss an idea right off the bat. If you're passionate about solving a problem, there are no limits for have far you can push it and improve. Pursue it, research it, and, as I learned from 3M, apply it to different parts of your life! In my case, that meant that laser coach evolved from a laser taped to a tennis racquet into an instant feedback-giving device that made tennis accessible to everyone. You never know all the wonderful places an idea will take you, and you'll never find out if you don't try.”