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Many of the greatest innovations of our time were first designed to solve simple problems for which we didn’t even know we needed solutions. The 3M Young Scientist Challenge encourages young people to solve everyday problems using science and innovation – and we can’t wait to see what you dream up!

When you work in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) field, it is important to be curious about the world around you. You must use that curiosity and passion to find new solutions to existing problems. Your family, classmates, hobbies, or something you see on TV, YouTube or social media might inspire you to come up with the greatest innovation of your generation… you may find inspiration in the most unexpected places.


The state of science around the world is very complex. However, many people are curious and hopeful that science will help make the world a better place for future generations. Your submission video for the 3M Young Scientist Challenge should show us how your innovation will Improve Lives for the Future.

In a 1-2 minute video, show us why you were inspired to solve your chosen problem, and how you developed a concept that uses science to improve the lives of future generations. You may find the 3M “Scientists as Storytellers” e-tool-kit helpful for some inspiration.

Your solution must be a new innovation or idea, and cannot simply be a new use for an existing product. The proposed innovation should fall under at least one of these categories:

Improving Health

Not only does science solve the biggest problems inside the human body, but it also helps us create the tools that doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals need to improve – and save – lives.

What kind of innovation would…

  • Prevent the spread of germs or illness when you're sick? 
  • Develop a new material to heal scars or injuries?
  • Detect and alert people of chronic diseases before they show symptoms?
  • Make healthcare products available to underdeveloped communities?
  • Improve the way medications are administered?
  • Make physical or mental healthcare more accessible?
  • Organize healthcare information in a way that any of your doctors can access it?
  • Detect or prevent food poisoning?

For inspiration, take a look at these Young Scientist alumni:

  • 2018 winner Rishab Jain developed an method to more accurately locate the pancreas during MRI radiotherapy and make cancer treatment more effective.
  • 2018 finalist Cameron Sharma used AI and machine learning to identify personalized flu vaccines.

Improving Safety

Whether you’re on the sports field or crossing the street, safety should always come first. Not only can we use science to protect our bodies, but we can also help improve quality of life by making the things we consume safer and cleaner.

What kinds of innovation would…

  • Improve the quality of food?
  • Prevent young children from accidental injuries?
  • Reduce the risk of injury on construction sites?
  • Advance the tools used to heal from a sports injury?
  • Prevent identity theft?
  • Improve filtration systems for air, water and other natural resources?
  • Make buildings or transportation methods more durable or reliable?

For inspiration, take a look at these Young Scientist alumni:

Improving Mobility

As populations continue to move toward urban areas, science and innovation can help make these cities “smarter”. Smart vehicles, road safety and public transit are a few of the transportation mechanisms that will become increasingly important as we figure out how to improve movement within and between the planet’s most populated locations.

What kind of innovation would…

  • Make airplanes, cars and trains run more efficiently?
  • Make city infrastructure compatible with the technology we all have at our fingertips?
  • Improve mobility with devices or products in a unique way?
  • Connect the traffic and safety functions of a city with vehicles on the roads and rails?

For inspiration, take a look at these Young Scientist alumni:

  • 2019 finalist Caroline Crouchley developed a sustainable method of public transportation that eliminates the need for a diesel engine or electric motor in trains.
  • 2018 finalist Laalitya Acharya created a solution to revolutionize energy in developing countries by using vehicular motion to generate and harness clean and affordable energy.

Improving the Environment

Our planet holds precious resources, and it is our responsibility to properly manage them so future generations can enjoy the same quality of life that we do. Through science, we can reduce our environmental footprint and enhance how we use natural resources in the most efficient ways.

What kind of innovation would…

  • Make drinking water cleaner for people across the world?
  • Reduce your carbon footprint?
  • Ensure clean breathing air for people in all communities?
  • Create new ways to use recycled materials?
  • Clean up our oceans and forests for their animal inhabitants?
  • Build more products with less material?
  • Make it easier for people to recycle?

For inspiration, take a look at these Young Scientist alumni:

  • 2017 winner Gitanjali Rao created a sensor-based device to detect lead in water faster than other current techniques.
  • 2018 finalist Anna Du created an underwater robot that detects microplastics in the ocean.

Improving Energy Consumption

Energy is the key to keeping the world working, but it’s a natural resource that is frequently used and abused. With the help of science, we can create and conserve energy in new and innovative ways that really keep the lights on.

What kind of innovation would…

  • Provide electricity to underdeveloped countries?
  • Create transportation that is less harmful to the environment?
  • Reduce energy used in homes and office buildings?
  • Produce energy in ways that is least harmful to the environment?
  • Reuse energy in creative ways?

For inspiration, take a look at these Young Scientist alumni:

  • 2016 winner Maanasa Mendu created a device that harvests energy from the wind and sun to create an eco-friendly and cost-efficient source of electricity.
  • 2015 winner Hannah Herbst developed a device to provide a stable power source and freshwater to developing countries by using untapped energy from ocean currents.

Improving the Community

Science touches every part of our lives, even if it is not obvious at first. Think about the major challenges in your life or the lives of those important to you, and how you could solve them through scientific thinking.

What kind of innovation would…

  • Help to reduce traffic accidents, jams or other transportation hazards? 
  • Improve airline screening and/or security tools to make air transportation safer and/or more efficient? 
  • Make public transportation more accessible to people with disabilities, limitations or challenges?
  • Create a better system for finding a missing pet?
  • Protect people during a natural disaster or emergency?
  • Create affordable housing for city dwellers that is also safe and easily accessible?

For inspiration, take a look at these Young Scientist alumni:

  • 2016 finalist Amelia Day invented a device that aims to improve accuracy of kicking a soccer ball to help those who are injured, and visual and hearing impaired.
  • 2013 finalist Brooke Martin created iCUpooch, an interactive care unit for dogs.