Young scientistsNinth-grader wins award for solar-powered water purification system

Published 26 December 2012

Ninth-grader Deepika Kurup of Nashua High School in New Hampshire won $25,000 and named America’s Top Young Scientist for her innovative new water-purification system; her prototype, which harnesses solar energy to disinfect contaminated water, can help improve the lives of the 1.1 billion people around the world who lack access to clean drinking water

Discovery Education and 3M have named 14-year-old Deepika Kurup from Nashua, New Hampshire, winner of the 2012 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge for her innovative, cost effective, and sustainable water-purification system. Her prototype, which harnesses solar energy to disinfect contaminated water, can help improve the lives of the 1.1 billion people around the world who lack access to clean drinking water. Kurup, a ninth grader at Nashua High School, competed alongside nine other finalists yesterday during a live competition at the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. She was awarded the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist,” $25,000 and a trip from Discovery Student Adventures.

A Discovery release reports that during the past three months, Kurup and the other finalists had the exclusive opportunity to work directly with a 3M Scientist as they created their personal innovations as part of a summer mentorship program. The 3M Scientists provided guidance to the finalists as they developed their ideas from a theoretical concept into an actual prototype that would help solve a problem in everyday life.

At the final competition, the finalists shared their completed innovations with a panel of judges, including Danny Forster of SCIENCE’s Build it Bigger. In addition to presenting their prototypes, the ten finalists competed in two additional challenges in which they were asked to: 1) combine multiple 3M technologies to yield new solutions; and 2) build a machine designed to turn on a light bulb using science and engineering principles. Finalists were evaluated on their scientific knowledge, creativity and use of 3M technology.

The Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge is a perfect example of the importance for companies to join forces to ignite students’ natural curiosity in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects and encourage them to pursue STEM careers in the future,” said Bill Goodwyn, CEO, Discovery Education. “Kurup and the rest of this year’s finalists have shown incredibly innovative thinking, and I am certain that they will be prepared to compete in today’s global economy and create a bright future for our country.”

The opportunity to encourage and celebrate science achievement among our nation’s top students carries great meaning for the future of our society, and we’re proud to have hosted these young scientists at the 3M Innovation Center today,” added Ian Hardgrove , president, 3M Foundation.  “Innovation is a way of life at 3M and we never stop inventing.  We look to the talented minds of the next generation like those students represented in this competition to lead us to new frontiers of discovery in the years to come.  We at 3M congratulate them all.”

The remaining nine finalists also received a variety of prizes from Discovery Education and 3M. The second, third and fourth place winners each received a $1,000 cash prize and a trip from Discovery Student Adventures to Costa Rica. These extraordinary students are:

  • Carolyn Jons , from Eden Prairie High School in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, received second place for her innovative packaging method that inhibits mold growth and helps keep food fresh longer.
  • Anin Sayana from Bellarmine College Preparatory in Cupertino, California, received third place for his innovation that selectively targets chemotherapy-resistant cancer stem cells.
  • Anishaa Sivakumar from Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, received fourth place for her innovation that would help treat patients suffering from macular degeneration.

The fifth through tenth place winners each received a $1,000 cash prize and a $500 gift card from Discovery Experiences, which offers first-hand, memorable adventures they see and learn about on Discovery’s networks. These finalists, in alphabetical order, are:

  • Aidan Dwyer , from Northport High School in Northport, N.Y.
  • Naren Gaurav , from Meadow Park Summa Middle School in Beaverton, Ore.
  • Brandon Gong , from Garden City Middle School in Garden City, N.Y.
  • Chase Lewis , homeschooled in Chapel Hill, N.C.
  • Gabriel Mesa , from Canton Intermediate School in Canton, Conn.
  • Patrick Shea , from Routt Catholic High School in Jacksonville, Ill.