It is a thrill to experience the energy, creativity, and enthusiasm of young people from around the world as they apply their curiosity and talents to address significant global challenges. There are budding scientists and innovators all around us and I have been fortunate to recently visit with some of the best.
On an October Saturday in Datong City, China, one hundred students from 35 universities melded into five integrated, multi-lingual teams and immediately found their unique competitive spirit. The teams eagerly answered trivia questions, celebrated correct answers, and were awarded materials allowing them to build a traditional Chinese structure – an Ancient Chinese Bucket Arch which is created by locking beams and requires no nails or cement to stand for hundreds of years. Amazing!
The languages were different but the lessons learned were similar. Finding innovative solutions to complex problems requires creatively, experimentation, and teamwork. And, the process of converting a concept – as clever, timely, and intriguing as it may be – to a prototype for public display can be overwhelming. Sometimes a brilliant idea is helped by a ready supply of duct tape, late night calls to mentors, last minute tweaks to wiring systems, and a presentation that includes a bit of theatrical magic!
The H20asis project, a solar-powered reverse osmosis water supplier system, from Cupertino High School won first place in the San Francisco Clean Tech Competition.
The presentations were first-rate and the innovations were ingenious, but what impressed me most at the recent judging of Clean Tech Competition projects in Silicon Valley, Calif. was the focus on how technology can improve the way people live.
In this inaugural year of the Competition, presented by Applied Materials, student ages 13-18 worked in teams both in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Xi’an, China to design a solar solution to a humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of a real or imagined natural disaster. At the California judging recently held at Santa Clara University, students described earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruptions and then demonstrated their solutions ranging from food storage and cooking systems to communication and location devices to solar masks.