Do You Know America's Top Young Scientist?

In a world full of next top model wannabes and hopeful brides and grooms to scheming bachelors and bachelorettes rises a competition aimed at future Marie Curies and Thomas Edisons.

Discovery Education and 3M are hosting the annual Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, a science competition for students in grades 5-8. Through the program, young inventors have the opportunity to work closely with a 3M scientist mentor, compete for $25,000 and earn the title of “America's Top Young Scientist.”

Contestants must create a one- to two-minute video communicating the science behind a new innovation or solution that could solve or impact an everyday problem.

Last year’s winner, Hannah Herbst, won with her energy probe prototype that seeks to offer a stable power source to developing countries. She entered the contest because she wanted to help her 9-year-old pen pal living in Ethiopia who lacks a reliable source of power and electricity.

I’m a bit ashamed to say that when I was in the fifth grade my friend Beth Oaklief and I were making pretend retainers with paper clips and rubber bands. How we didn’t choke ourselves with over-wound rubber bands I will never know.

Anyhow, back to the topic at hand. Video entries will be evaluated based on their creativity, scientific knowledge, persuasiveness and overall presentation. Ten finalists will then be chosen to participate in a mentorship program where they will meet virtually with their 3M mentors and will receive additional resources and support from 3M and Discovery Education. Each finalist will also receive a trip to the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minn., to compete at the final event in October 2016.

I wonder if we had the proper mentors, Beth and I might have been on to something revolutionary in the dental arts. After all, paper clips and rubber bands are cheap and there’s no shortage of crooked teeth in the world.

Our time has passed, but for the current class of grade schoolers, the future is theirs for the taking. Shine on, young scientists.

Learn more at the Young Scientist Challenge website.


Traci-bio-photo.jpgTraci Purdum is Chemical Processing’s senior digital editor and a retired armchair dentist. You can email her at