Inspired by the superhero scientist Tony Stark from the movie “Iron Man 3,” 12 of America’s brightest young minds were brought to Hollywood earlier this year for the granddaddy of all science fairs.
“Iron Man saves lives. My invention does that too,” commented Chase Lewis, a Chapel Hill, N.C., seventh grader and one of 12 finalists at the Iron Man 3 Inventor and Innovator Fair, presented at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, Calif.
Lewis, for example, invented a device to help ease the dearth of wheeled transportation in impoverished areas of Africa.
Another finalist, Maya Patal of The Woodlands, Texas, presented her project, “Gauging Inferno Sprawl,” which uses geographical information systems to predict the spread of wildfire.
And Anin Sayana of Cupertino, Calif., put together what he says is “a novel configuration of carbon nanotubes to selectively target chemotherapy-resistant cancer stem cells.”
The 12 finalists also got a chance to greet “Iron Man” himself, the actor playing Stark, Robert Downey Jr., who told the audience on hand he was pleased to be introduced to “the future design team of the next Iron Man suit.”
A video profiling the young geniuses is just one of many fascinating “bonus features” appearing every weekday in conjunction with WND-TV’s new reality TV show “Zero to Superhero,” which follows Jeeves Urquhart on his journey to become a real-life superhero.
Haven’t seen “Zero to Superhero” yet? Watch a trailer for the new series here! Or check out Episode 1.2, the second installment in the inspiring saga of Jeeves Urquhart!
As for the youngsters, four were chosen as grand prize winners in the innovator fair, including eighth grader Arjun Dhawan, who invented an enhanced walking stick for the visually impaired, incorporating a sensor similar to the sonar devices used in submarines. The result is a walking stick that can detect obstacles from a much further distance, helping the user to more easily define his or her surroundings.
Arjun told the Evansville, Ind., Courier & Press his inspiration came from visiting a home for blind orphans in India, a family tradition passed down by his great-grandmother.
“I came back from India with the feeling that I could do something to help improve the lives of these children,” he told the newspaper. “It was amazing to see how much they helped each other, and I thought maybe I could help, too.”
Fellow grand prize winner Megan Swintosky, an eighth-grader at Penn View Christian School in Souderton, Pa., found her inspiration much closer to home.
Her grandfather, Joseph Swintosky, who died in September 2012, used to tell stories, including one about how he experienced a sudden lung collapse, or spontaneous pneumothorax, when he was young.
Megan traveled to the University of Kentucky’s College of Pharmacy, where her grandfather was dean emeritus, to work in a lab in search of a mutation in the folliculin gene that causes collapsed lung using DNA donated from family members.
What she found has made her a star in the genetics field at the age of 14.
Megan studied a mutation in her family’s genes and discovered that 17 of her relatives on her father’s side, including herself, have it.
“I informed my family of my findings and the diseases that it could cause,” Megan told the Lansdale, Pa., Reporter.
She then continued her research, the newspaper reports, and discovered a new mutation in her family’s DNA, which she believes actually causes collapsed lung.
“But as of now I don’t have any proof, and I want to find that proof,” she said.
Video of the youngsters explaining their projects can be seen below: