Xavier- Great Innovation is More Than Science Facts

Hello Inventor-Scientist-Friends!  This week I am going to talk about how I chose my problem and how several very valuable discussions with 3M scientists helped me re-think my project.

I have decided to focus on the problems of fossil fuel overdependence and climate change. These problems affect many people all over the globe, which is one important reason why I chose them.  One possible solution to fossil fuel overuse and climate change is using renewable energy sources. This has sparked my interest in creating new and better ways to harvest these energy sources.  But probably the biggest factor in my interest in climate change and renewable energy sources is really personal.  Climate change and fossil fuel overdependence directly affect my state of Florida.  I live on the west coast of Florida, just a few miles from the Gulf of Mexico. Whenever there is a hurricane or tropical storm, many homes in these areas are destroyed. We were fortunate that Hurricane Irma only blew out our pool cage and destroyed our backyard fence.  Many families lost their entire homes with wind, flooding, and water damage everywhere.  My school lost its library and many classrooms due to flooding.  Businesses and even cars and boats were destroyed.  We know that due to climate change, hurricanes like Irma are getting stronger and developing more frequently.  But the good news is that we also know that climate change is reversable.  It is important for me to work on a problem that has possible solutions, even if the solutions are only in my imagination, waiting to be worked out.  I knew that I wanted to work on something that would help reverse climate change.  Scientists know that high C02 and N02 emissions, from the burning of fossil fuels, build up in our atmosphere and are responsible for climate change. These are greenhouse gasses which means that they trap heat from the sun and then bounce it back at our planet making temperatures rise.  Only a few degrees hotter is enough to push everything off balance on planet earth.  But renewable energy sources which can minimize fossil fuel use have limitations, too, so new technologies that can more efficiently harvest these renewable energy sources are really important in moving us away from fossil fuels.

I know that I shouldn’t brag, but is it bragging if it’s the truth?!  My mentor Sam Reiss has been the best thing for me since LEGOs (and I really love LEGOs!)  He connected me with 4 different 3M scientist this week so we could talk about my project.  These scientists were all experts in their fields and answered questions that I had for different parts of my project.  This would have taken me hours of reading research papers and listening to TED talks.  It helped me understand why a community of scientists that you can talk to is so exciting and valuable and a privilege (and very nerve-wracking because I was always nervous about asking dumb questions).   My mentor helped me absorb and think through all the information.  When I felt like I was drowning from too much information, he helped me focus on the important parts and learn the science terms that mattered for my project. I also listened to the questions that he asked and learned what good questions sound like.  Good questions let scientists explore ideas or combine ideas out loud and don’t worry about how it sounds.  Besides teaching me about science, Sam also teaches me about how important it is to have great communication skills and build relationships with other scientists.  It is one thing to have an idea in your mind and know a lot of scientific facts, but another to talk about it with peers and co-workers. If you want to start a project, you will need to present it to your colleagues and managers and build excitement and support for it. This requires solid communication skills where you can clearly and simply explain your project (like a 30 second elevator pitch).  Solid communication skills build relationships and strengthen connections to other scientists from across different fields which means more creativity and innovation for your project. Starting a large project requires funding and special materials. Relationships and connections to different scientists builds support for your ideas and project and can mean the difference between successful innovation and application in the real world versus a disappointing dead end.  I am very fortunate be working with my mentor, Sam Reiss and an amazing team of scientists at 3M.  Thank you 3M and Discovery Education!