Dr. Gary Michelson and his wife, Alya Michelson, formed the Twenty Million Minds Foundation to foster academic success by mitigating the high costs of academic textbooks and related materials by making the material freely available online.
The foundation has now extended its activities into the field of aiding and encouraging young inventors to fulfill their potential. The foundation recently sponsored a category of student prizes at the Los Angeles County Science Fair. The award, called the “Gary and Alya Michelson Invention Prize” and worth up to $1300 for individual winners, went to the top four students deemed to have research projects most likely to lead to a patentable technology; Aeden Gasser-Brennan, Akira Higaki, Ryan Wong, and Vick Lui.
Dean Florez, president and CEO of The 20 Million Minds Foundation commented, “This grant helps foster innovation at the primary and secondary levels, providing students with further encouragement and resources to test their ideas and persist.”
Of course, encouraging students to explore the possibilities of invention is not confined to the United States. And age is no barrier.
At the surprisingly young age of 10, Emirati inventor Adeeb Al Balooshi is about to embark on a seven-country tour of science after inventing a prosthetic limb for his father and a housework robot for his mother. He is a Fifth Year pupil at the Gems Wellington International School in Al Sufouh. During the school holidays, Adeeb will visit the U.S. – including NASA – as well as several European countries.
His father, a businessman, gave Adeeb the idea for a new invention.
“He asked me, ‘what if I was in the car one day and I died, you have no idea I’m driving a car, I’m in the middle of nowhere, and the cellphone is out of battery, what would you do?'”
After contemplating the question his father presented to him, Adeeb said he would create a seat belt with a heart monitor.
“If you die or anything, cops and the ambulance will come towards you and your entire household will be informed,” he said.
Not surprisingly, Adeeb is the head of the Arab Youth Council for Integrated Development’s committee of young inventors and innovators and has more than 100 certificates and awards to his name.
Back in the U.S., the 60th annual Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair concluded last month with some amazing inventions from 10th and 12th Grade students. One student developed a program to improve facial recognition. Others wrote software to identify tumors and manage patient treatment, while others tackled problems ranging from security to education.
Phil Gay, who has served as president of the fair for a decade, said, “It’s a chance for students to do their own individual research on an area that they are personally interested in; something they can develop and expand and take pride in presenting.”
The fair began in 1955, and in its first year, featured 51 students. Now, the competition has grown to more than ten times its original size, with 595 students participating this year in projects that have become more sophisticated and technically complex every year.
This year’s winners wrote artificial-intelligence programs, reworked statistical formulas, and drew from cutting-edge disciplines within the fields of math and science. They will go on to compete in Los Angeles and in the California State Science Fair in April, and then the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in May.
Another interesting story about young inventors in the U.S. is a recent report about a team of young scientists from the Stevens Institute in New Jersey, who developed a bomb-searching device called “Percious,” which can locate bombs deep underwater. The actual invention is a floating vehicle equipped with cameras that can spot explosives 40 feet below the surface. The cameras are remotely controlled by operators who can watch from a safe place while the device searches.
The main reason that Dr. Michelson is so interested in helping young inventors is that he is a prolific inventor himself, having designed more than 250 United States patented instruments, operative procedures, and medical devices related to advances in spinal and orthopedic surgery.
He also has over 750 issued or pending patents worldwide that have advanced spinal surgery with minimally invasive procedures, devices, and surgical tools. These accomplishments enabled him to be included in the Forbes 400 and to be inducted into the Inventor Hall of Fame.
It was the proceeds from the sale of these inventions that enabled Gary and Alya Michelson to set up a number of charitable foundations, including the Twenty Million Minds Foundation.
In a final comment on the Gary and Alya Michelson Invention Prize and the students who won, Florez says, “These students are a fantastic example of young talent and would be a great inspiration to other students who are hoping to achieve a scientific breakthrough.”