Entry Topics

Has there ever been a more exciting time to be a scientist than the 21st century? Global challenges abound as the world’s population is predicted to reach 9 billion in 2050. Scientists are needed to solve serious issues like access to clean water, adequate healthcare, clean energy and a demand for raw materials that strains our world resources. 3M scientists use collaboration and an array of technologies to help tackle these problems.

Are you inspired to be a part of the solution? Inspired to join the global team of scientists who improve human life and the planet by using science? The Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge is looking for passionate young people to help solve the world’s biggest challenges using science and innovation.


Identify an everyday problem that directly impacts your family, community, or the global population. Create a solution. The solution must be a new innovation or idea, and cannot simply be a new use for an existing product.


The challenge is to create a 1-2 minute video that…

  • explains the problem. How does it impact you and your family, community or the global population? How does that make you feel and why are you inspired to fix the problem?
  • describes a new innovation or solution that could solve or impact the problem;
  • explains how the innovation relates to one (or more) of 3M’s expertise areas listed below.
  • explains the science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics behind their innovation; and
  • illustrates how your innovation could both address the everyday problem you've identified and have a broader impact locally or globally.


3M is committed to using science to improve lives, and we want entrants of the Young Scientist Challenge to share that same passion and vision. Your innovation can aim to solve any problem that inspires you, across any industry – from electronics to automotive, to construction and design, to communications, personal safety and professional cleaning. We hope 3M’s innovations will inspire you to think about a scientific solution that solves a problem you care about. To see all the categories in which 3M is applying science to improve lives, click to this link.

The following ideas are thought-starters to help you identify a problem and think about a creative solution. You are encouraged to consider one of these topic areas or come up with your own idea!


From automobile makers to home appliance manufacturers to food & beverage professionals, science is essential to making the industrial plants and facilities run more efficiently across every category, improving both the way manufacturers operate and the products they put into the world.

What kinds of technologies, innovations, or solutions might:

  • Ensure clean breathing air for people in all communities?
  • Help increase the production of goods without the use of fossil fuels?
  • Improve the efficiency of production at minimal costs?


Energy is the key to keeping the world working and one of the most fundamental parts of our daily lives. By using science, we can help conserve and create energy in new and innovative ways.

What kinds of technologies, innovations, or solutions might:

  • Provide electricity to underdeveloped countries?
    • See how our 2016 winner Maanasa Mendu was inspired by the natural design of tree leaves to create an energy harvesting device that can be used in both urban and rural environments
  • Provide safe drinking water to people across the world?
    • See how our 2015 winner Hannah Herbst thought to use energy from ocean currents to provide a power source and fresh water to developing countries.
  • Find a way to help people reduce their environmental footprint by using alternative energy sources?
  • Reuse energy in creative ways?


Whether you’re on the sports field or crossing the street, safety should always come first. Not only can we use science to protect our bodies from physical conditions, but we can also help improve quality of life by making the things we consume (food, drinks and air) safer and cleaner.

What kinds of technologies, innovations, or solutions might:

  • Improve air and water quality in highly polluted areas?
    • See how our 2017 winner Gitanjali Rao was inspired by Flint, MI Water Crisis to develop Tethys, a sensor-based device that can detect lead in water faster than other current techniques.
  • Detect and alert people of the likelihood of an accident happening?
  • Reduce the risk of injury during a fall?
  • Prevent a sports related injury from happening?
  • Protect people from workplace dangers?


Living a healthy lifestyle and ensuring the health of others is crucial to having long and productive lives. Not only does science solve our biggest problems inside the human body, but it also helps us create the tools that doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals need to improve – and save – lives.

What kinds of technologies, innovations, or solutions might:

  • Deliver effective and affordable medical products to hospitals and doctor’s offices all over the world?
  • Improve the quality of food and its packaging?
  • Detect and alert people of the onset of health problems?
  • Make healthcare products available to underdeveloped communities?
  • Perform diagnostics without the use of modern technology?


Science and innovation can help make cities “smarter” as populations move toward urban areas. Smart vehicles, road safety and public transportation are a few of the transportation mechanisms that will become increasingly important as we figure out how to improve movement within and between the planet’s most populated locations.

What kinds of technologies, innovations, or solutions might:

  • Make airplanes, cars and trains run more efficiently?
  • Connect the traffic and safety functions of a city with vehicles on the roads and rails?
  • Make transportation easier without automation?
  • Create affordable housing for city dwellers that is also safe and easily accessible?
  • Make infrastructure able to withstand weather and traffic conditions of cities with growing populations?

Entries will be scored using the following judging criteria:

  • Creativity (ingenuity and innovative thinking) (30%);
  • Scientific knowledge (30%);
  • Persuasiveness and effective communication (20%); and
  • Overall presentation (20%).