Middle School Student Crowned “America’s Top Young Scientist” for Unique Invention

A California-based student recently bagged the grand prize of the 2022 3M Young Scientist Challenge, the country’s premiere middle-school science competition. 14-year-old Leanne Fan has won this prestigious national honor by developing a low-cost headphone that will detect and treat mid-ear infections using machine learning and blue light therapy.

The Winning Invention

The startling development in question is named Finsen Headphones. As per the scientist panel judging the competition, this affordable headphone device can potentially prevent up to 60% of hearing loss, especially in children. As a finalist in the competition, Leanne was assigned a mentor named Dr. Ross Behling. Dr. Behling is a research specialist in the material laboratory of 3M and worked one-on-one with Leanne to transform her concept and idea into a working prototype. Then in October, all nine finalists of the Young Scientist Challenge competed with the final presentations of their unique innovations at the St. Paul headquarters of 3M in Minnesota, where Leanne was announced as the winner.

The Prospect

The world experiences 700 million reported cases of mid-ear infections and nearly 21,000 casualties caused by it each year. Most of the victims are children within underprivileged populations across the world, deprived of a proper healthcare facility or medical access. So, diagnosis and treatment of such infections are often difficult in this situation. Leanne’s invention Finsen Headphones, aims to provide a low-cost and antibiotic-free option to detect any mid-ear infection by machine learning and then treat it with blue light therapy.

The Prize

Leanne, the would-be high school freshman from San Diego, won a special destination trip and a cash prize of $25,000, along with the esteemed title of “America’s Top Young Scientist.” The bright-minded teenager is now planning to use a portion of her prize money to initiate the patent process for her Finsen Headphones. That may be the first step toward a great future!