SAN DIEGO — UPDATE: I'm happy to update a local story that will inspire San Diego STEM Students. 3M and Discovery Education announced Leanne Fan, from Westview High School in Poway Unified School District in San Diego, was named the 2022 winner of the 3M Young Scientist Challenge for creating Finsen Headphones.
I met the 14-year-old San Diego student in July when she was a finalist to win the 3M Young Scientist Challenge. In the Innovate 8 report, Leanne showed me the special pair of headphones that she invented.
The 3M Young Scientist Challenge competition recognizes students in grades 5-8, who use scientific thinking to create an innovation that will improve lives both in their local communities and globally.
Every year, 3M and Discovery Education search the country for America's Top Young Scientist. "I was really surprised," said Leanne Fan who is a freshman at Westview High.
Leanne invented low-cost headphones that use machine learning and blue light therapy to detect and treat mid-ear infections in children.
"What you see here isn't just a pair of headphones these could potentially prevent up to 60% of hearing loss," said Leanne. "This is completely new."
The idea could make Leanne millions of dollars. "You know that is something I am really hoping will happen," said Leanne. She knew that a sick child might not want to wear the device if they weren't feeling well so she devised a way for the children to receive treatment while listening to their favorite music.
"I am really proud of her," said Kara Fan who is Leanne's older sister. In 2019, Kara created nano particle liquid bandages to replace the use of antibiotics and won America's 2019 Top Young Scientist. "I not only want to do what my sister did I want to I want to go above and beyond," said Leanne.
For about $200, one set of her headphones could help thousands of children. "This is the USB camera that connects to your computer, and this is what detects your ear infection," said Leanne. "Healthcare should be available to everyone because it's our health it is a matter of life and death."
"At 3M, we are committed to unlocking the power of our people, science, and ideas to reimagine what comes next. The '3M Young Scientist Challenge' supports young innovators who have demonstrated that same passion through creative discovery and the desire to improve the world around us," said Karina Chavez, senior vice president and chief strategy officer at 3M. "We are thrilled to welcome the latest generation of finalists and honorable mention recipients, and we are energized by a future that embraces STEM-for-all to build a better tomorrow."
As the 3M Young Scientist Challenge grand prize winner, Leanne received a $25,000 cash prize, the prestigious title of "America's Top Young Scientist" and a special destination trip.
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