Theodore Jiang is just like any middle schooler in Santa Monica. He goes to school (Paul Revere, he recently moved from Westwood), noodles away at guitar when he can, relaxes at the beach and doodles while he daydreams. His daydreams, however, might soon land him the title of America’s Top Young Scientist.
Jiang is one of ten young scientists from across the country selected as a finalist for the 2018 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. The competition picked middle-school students that demonstrated innovative, scientific thinking that could improve lives in their local communities or globally.
Students entered the competition with a 1-2 minute video describing a unique solution to an everyday problem.
Jiang’s unique solution was for an everyday problem we’ve all faced — the dreaded fear of hitting 1% on our phones, nary a charger in sight.
“I was thinking about energy consumption and recycling energy,” the 14-year-old Jiang said. “I wanted to find a way to use energy but regenerate energy simultaneously. I thought it’d be cool if I made shoes that could do that, but when thinking more about it, I thought I should bring this to phones. We all use phones and don’t like carrying chargers or forgetting them.”
He explains that his idea — which he’s created and tested himself, to varying levels of success — is to create a phone case that charges itself while being used. He’s tested self-made cases utilizing electric plates that generate power when touched as well as self-made cases that generate power when its ridges are squeezed.
“I have a PH. D and some things he does, I have no idea how it’s done or what he did,” Theo’s dad, Lin Jiang said. No slouch himself, the senior Jiang is a neurologist at UCLA. “My field is completely different. I know very little about what he does. School didn’t teach him this — he taught himself. I’m very proud.”
Jiang and other finalists will all receive $1,000, mentorship with 3m scientists and a trip to 3M Headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota, to compete at the 3M Innovation Center October 15 – 16.
Judges will evaluate finalists on a series of challenges, including a final presentation of their completed invention.
If chosen as the grand prize winner, Jiang would receive $25,000, a trip to watch the taping of a Discovery Network show and the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist.”
If he wins the money, Theo says wants to save most for college and further development of his project.
“I think I might have some luck,” Jiang said. “In the beginning, I just started out to do something fun and to learn from it. But now its pretty cool that I’m a finalist for this.”
For more information on the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, including photos and bios of the 10 finalists and a list of the 34 state merit winners, please visit www.youngscientistlab.com/challenge.