10 Under 20: Young Innovators to Watch Gives Young Geeks a Boost when they Need It Most

Pity the poor student geek. Their classmates are hanging out, messaging friends, or maybe playing on the soccer team. The school aged geeks, however, are driven by coding and tinkering. Although more and more schools are creating robotics or coding clubs, high tech endeavors made by students are often very lonely pursuits. Without a mentor, a dedicated parent or someone to champion their right to “geek out,” it’s likely that some of that love of science and technology will be quashed. That’s why it’s so important to reward their efforts when they’re young and on the cusp of continuing to learn about high tech or even when they are just playing World of Warcraft instead.

We started the 10 Under 20: Young Innovators to Watch Awards in New York City to give kids a shot in the arm of confidence to motivate them to continue to explore. The awards, presented at CE Week, a high tech trade show focusing on new products, were created to allow a feedback loop between high tech vendors coming to do business in New York City and the kids who go to school here.

After a general call for applications, a group of judges, representing educators, technologists, startups and VCs, gathered together to debate the 10 winners. Applications were dissected for their overall creativity, promotion of STEM and STEAM computing, user interface, scalability and social good/community.

The winners, ranging in age from 12 -20, come from four out of the five boroughs, attend private and public schools and happen to look like a Benetton ad with a collective IQ in the thousands. Some students used family hardship and experiences to inspire their creations, like the student who developed an app to aid those with Alzheimer’s or the automatic pill dispenser. Others sought to teach kids, like StuyHacks or Math Battle. Still, others sought to change the world like the group of students who created an app to help report police brutality.

Now in its second year, the award scholarships included a combination of $1,000 plus gear. Sponsors included Lenovo, Asurion, Monster Products, B&H Photo, Craftsmen, WowWee, and STM.

Meet the kids and you’ll be warmed to the very bottom of your geek soul:

  • Adam Abbas, 15, Stuyvesant High School, Manhattan, “Kinet-X”: A new four-week STEM education program for students with curriculum broken up into Training, Education and a final project. In Training, students choose to learn about physical engineering or programming. In Education, they learn about their chosen field, supplemented with guest speakers and field trips. Lastly, they take what they have learned and apply it to their final project.
  • Simone Braunstein, 18, The Dalton School, Manhattan, “A Novel Haptic Actuator for Robotic Surgery”: A novel robotic surgical controller, which is the only robotic gripper prototype to offer a surgeon the intuitive ability to remotely grasp an object and receive accurate touch feedback.
  • Sharon Chen, 18, Columbia University, Manhattan, “Kofiko Software”: A Matlab program that helps analyze and track visual processing in a monkey’s brain. Using two touch interfaces, one for the researcher and one for the monkey, the monkey is trained to answer sets of visual questions. If the monkey’s answer is correct, it receives a reward. The software can keep track of right and wrong answers as well as the hand and eye movements of the monkeys.
  • Sakura Davis, 17, The Brearley School, Manhattan, “Prosthetic Hand”: A 3D-printed prosthetic hand that is controlled by glove gestures as opposed to a program. Using flex sensors, when a person bends their fingers inside the glove, the prosthetic hand will bend corresponding fingers by a proportional amount.
  • Zachary Espiritu, 16, Regis High School, Manhattan, “Math Battle”: An iOS game where two players go head-to-head in a battle to solve math-based puzzles faster than the other player. Users can either play in person on the same device or in an online multiplayer mode. In each battle, players compete to solve five generated puzzles and whoever solves the most wins. The game generates new puzzles every time, resulting in endless battles.
  • Micah Green, 19, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, “Maidbot”: Think Roomba, but better. Rosie the Maidbot was created to assist hotel room attendant staff. With her internal memory, which consists of hotel and room specific maps, she is able to clean more efficiently and provide valuable data to the hotel such as “how many rooms are being cleaned?” and “how quickly?”
  • Md Haque, 17, Bronx Academy for Software Engineering, Bronx, “Protect & Swerve”: A website and app where users can record and upload videos of police misconduct in real time. Incidents in the videos are geo-tagged and plotted on a map, allowing others to see them publically and comment if they wish. The platform aims not only to engage the community of users with content, but also inform them about the necessary steps to take action against the responsible police personnel.
  • Sharon Lin, 17, Stuyvesant High School, Manhattan, “StuyHacks”: Produces student-run, inclusive high school hackathons in downtown Manhattan intended for teens and pre-teens interested in STEM and technology. Providing a platform and safe space to experiment and create outside of school, StuyHacks already hosted its first hackathon, which lasted 12-24 hours. The group strives to ensure equal gender representation and reach individuals from various socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • Jason Huishen Lu, 18, Francis Lewis High School, Queens, “PillDrops”: A personalized, affordable IoT platform for pill-taking automation at home, the device is built to make the pill management process easier and more efficient. The individual or caretaker pours each type of pill into a different slot, then inputs each prescription name and schedule via a mobile application. The app searches through its database to make sure there are no dangerous drug combinations. When it is time for the patient to take a certain pill, an alarm will notify the individual and automatically dispense the correct amount.
  • Emma Yang, 12, The Brearley School, Manhattan, “Timeless”: Aimed at patients with Alzheimer’s Disease, Timeless is a first-of-its-kind, easy-to-use and accessible app that helps patients remember and recognize their friends and family to stay updated on their activities. Thanks to AI-based facial recognition software, uploaded photos and names of friends and family allows the app to recognize who the patient is interacting with. Also, the patient can call and text through the app and will be notified if they repeatedly contact a person with the same message.

10 Under 20 will be back at CES, so stay tuned on how to get involved.

Robin Raskin is founder of Living in Digital Times (LIDT), a team of technophiles who bring together top experts and the latest innovations that intersect lifestyle and technology. LIDT produces conferences and expos at CES and throughout the year focusing on how technology enhances every aspect of our lives through the eyes of today’s digital consumer.

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