Inventors Digest magazine selected the four winners of its national and Carolinas youth innovation essay contests, after evaluating some 400 submissions from across the country. We announced the winners last week; we’ve posted their essays today. See below:
Aidan Sorge,13, of Albuquerque Academy in Tijeras, N.M., won the nationwide middle school category with his essay on how medical nanotech implants will change healthcare by 2059. The judges said Aidan did a superlative job showing how nanotechnology will heal a range of ailments in the future.
Electronic Health-Monitoring Implant
By Aidan Sorge
In 2059 I believe there will be an electronic health-monitoring implant that doctors will insert into your body at birth. It will use nanotechnology and chemical sensors to detect changes in your blood chemistry that might impact your health.
The device will detect cancer, high blood pressure, infections or viruses in your blood stream as well as other diseases. Researchers are already working on finding cancer through changes in chemicals in your breath; infections and viruses can be found through blood work. Glucose meters that read blood sugar levels by sampling blood are already available. This implant would be an extension of current technology.
If this device sensed a problem, it would notify a database, your doctor and you. It would tell you to go to the hospital, or it might call an ambulance. If the situation was less dire, it would tell you to see your doctor soon or pick up a prescription.
Once you had the prescription, it could monitor the amount of the drug in your body to make sure you did not forget to take it, and check if the drug was getting rid of the virus or bacteria. It would send updates to your doctor and the database.
Over time the database will learn how best to treat certain diseases and will become more effective at treating them. It could also be integrated with other medical devices, such as an insulin pump to make control of diseases simpler. Epidemics could be prevented by quick notifications of infections.
This implant could also monitor your drug and alcohol use. If you tried to drive while under the influence then it would shut down your car. This would cut down on drunk driving and would be a great advantage because many deaths would be prevented.
This implant would save lives by preventing diseases. This device would also save time and money because it would automatically give you a prescription instead you having to go to the doctor yourself. And finally, it would save a lot of pain and suffering because it would allow earlier detection and perhaps prevention or cure of the disease.
Some people might feel their privacy was being invaded by such a device. Nevertheless, I feel that saving money, lives and suffering outweighs privacy issues. Privacy issues could be solved by controlling access to the information. Perhaps drug monitoring would only be activated upon a conviction for drunk driving.
I hope that this implant will be invented because I have seen many of my relatives and friends suffer from diseases that might have been prevented. My cousin has type 1 diabetes. This device would have detected her condition earlier.
Such an implant would mean fewer problems for my cousin and my friend’s mom with breast cancer would have been treated in time. I wouldn’t have to wonder if other diseases are lurking in my friends and family. This implant will change how medicine is practiced worldwide.
Jauhar Mehdee,17, of North Springs Charter High School in Atlanta, took the prize in the national high school category for his conception of a space elevator – a carbon nanotube beltway from Earth’s surface to orbit. He impressed the panel with his scientific creativity and clarity of expression.
The Space Elevator: Ribbon to the Sky
By Jay Mehdee
Every few decades for the past couple of centuries, there have been great paradigm shifts in transportation.
Consider the steam-powered train, first demonstrated on Feb. 22, 1804. This prototype vehicle hauled numerous cars of men and iron nine miles from the Welsh town of Merthyr Tydfil to Abercynon Valley. From that day, horses ceased to be the primary mode of land transportation.
In the decades to follow, steam trains would become accessible to millions of people across the world. The basic models would even branch out into freight trains, passenger trains, and many other types. They opened up the entire American West to travelers and businessmen.
The effect of steam-powered trains on civilization was a foreshadowing of the effect that space elevators will have by 2059. These structures are railroads to orbit.
The elevator would be composed of numerous components, namely the ribbon, counterweight, dock, base, and climber.
The ribbon would likely be composed of carbon nanotubes, which would have both tensile strength greater than titanium and the flexibility of plastic. It would extend 100,000 kilometers from Earth’s surface, past the exosphere, and terminate in a counterweight.
This counterweight can be a man-made object or a captured asteroid. However NASA personnel and other space experts agree that a space station would be a better choice. It could function as a dock where spacecraft can disembark or arrive.
The anchor of the elevator also comes with numerous possibilities, with a single concept currently deemed the best. This idea is that the elevator should be mounted on a mobile ocean-going platform in the Eastern Pacific, which would offer many advantages over a stationary base. Among these would be decreased vulnerability to attacks and the ability to shift the elevator’s position to dodge orbital debris and weather.
The elevator’s climber is the actual transporter of goods. It would look like a series of motors hugging the ribbon, with a photovoltaic cell array on one side and a container on the other.
Power would be beamed to the array from a laser projector at the elevator’s base. This energy would be converted directly to electricity that powers the motors to lift the climber up the ribbon.
Constructing the first space elevator would be a milestone of history, on par with the Wright brothers’ flight at Kitty Hawk. Each would be easier to construct than the last, and in this way there can be a proliferation of space trade and industry.
Launches could then be a daily event. The elevator’s impact is best summarized by comparing the costs of surface-to-orbit transit. On average, chemical rocket systems cost about $10,000 a pound. With a space elevator, though, that cost goes down to $250 a pound.
This may not be pocket money for most, but it does mean that the global economy will be transformed because of all the new opportunities from above. It could all be possible by 2059.
Justin Williams,13, of Southwest Middle School in Charlotte, earned the top Carolinas middle school contest for his networked school desk and at-home tablet. Judges enjoyed how Justin seized the initiative to conceive his own invention (including a rendering) and articulated how it would shape future education.
Desktop Computers and At-Home Tablets
By Justin Williams
By 2059, our schools will be modernized with many different kinds of inventions to improve the way teachers educate students. Today, schools waste 695,691,200 sheets of paper a year. That’s a lot of paper.
Another problem is when teachers instruct students to bring their textbooks and notebooks to school and students misplace them. Textbooks have a high economic value, and notebooks have an extremely high sentimental value.
It is worse when a notebook is lost because it contains all of your notes that are personalized so you can understand them. Losing a notebook can also cost a student’s grade. I will explain how my idea will revolutionize the way teachers teach around the world.
Imagine when you walk into a classroom, you sit in a desk without a notebook, a textbook or even a pencil or pen. Well by 2059, it will be a reality.
Students will walk into classrooms looking “unprepared,” as teachers would say today. All school supplies will be obsolete. You are probably wondering what invention can eliminate school supplies.
My invention is literally a desktop computer. It is a desk with a built-in computer. With my invention, students will be able to do many tasks, such as take notes or even upload and personalize pre-made notes from the teacher. Students will be able to take tests and do projects on the desk.
More than one program will be able to open at the same time, such as a textbook and a notebook because of the screen’s large size. A teacher can tell you to solve a problem on the board without getting out of your seat. All you do is use your stylus to solve the problem.
The whole class can also see your work along with the teacher. The desk will be compatible with many other applications and programs. The notes that were taken will be able to be saved under the students’ ID and uploaded after class to the other part of my invention – the at-home tablet.
The at-home tablet will be like a laptop, but it will have two screens and no keyboard. It will allow multitasking. The device will be touch-screen. Teachers will send students digital worksheets, documents and educational games.
Unlike laptops, the table will have a built-in wireless wide area card network (WWAN) connection to the Internet like many cell phones.
My plan is that every country will have their own network for their schools. Students will connect to their country’s network through another country’s network so students could have access to the Internet everywhere they go.
The tablet will have a camera and microphone so if you are sick or on vacation, you can still attend and participate in school. This tablet also will be compatible with many apps and software.
My invention will dramatically reduced the amount of paper we use and change the way we educate students around the world.
Christopher Hunter,16, of Warren New Tech High School in Warrenton, N.C., secured the Carolinas high school prize for his neural-computer interface for music composition. The judges warmed to the originality of his think-and-play technology, one of the only entries that addressed music – a universal language used by every culture.
Neural Music Composition
By Christopher Hunter
By 2059 an invention that I believe will be put in place is music composition, including different instrumentation, by the use of brain signals and cognitive thought.
With today’s technology, we have made it possible to crudely control prosthetic limbs by force of thought. We know that brain waves are electrical and chemical pulses that are sent out and read by different parts of the body.
With refining, we can make it so that the signals are read even more accurately. This technology can also be applied in other ways to enhance people’s lives. Computers could be configured to receive thought processes from people.
Music composition has come a long way. We have gone from having to write on pieces of parchment to being able to compose entire concertos without using a single piece of paper. Programs like Song Writer and Finale 2009 have helped bring music composition to where it is today.
It is now possible for a person to sing a melody and the pitches are plugged into the computer.
With new breakthrough technology, a person would be able to control, through concentration, the notes they wanted, the length of the note, and the type of instrument they wanted to use. The combination of these two technologies can allow individuals to create songs, symphonies even, by just thinking of them.
Those who might not be able to write music because of some disability, whether it is physical or mental, would have the opportunity to show through music what they could not put into words.
Many disabled individuals would be able to show off their gifts and talents in ways not known to them before. We would be able to learn more about how the mind works in individuals like savants and others with abilities different from the majority. Their voices would be heard not as sick or disabled people, but as artists and creators.
The contests, part of National Inventors Month last August, sought essays that best articulated what technology, tool, product or service would shape our lives in 2059.
Winners of the national contests each will receive laptop computers, a year’s subscription to Inventors Digest, their essays published in the December 2009 issue of the magazine and on this Web site, a possible appearance on the Emmy award-winning television series Everyday Edisons, a T-shirt and brain-teaser game. Winners of the Carolinas regional contests each will receive iPods courtesy of the Charlotte Observer and Charlotteobserver.com, and other prizes.
The best entries clearly articulated or described future technologies, tools, products or services that would shape or impact our lives by the year 2059, and were based on scientific or engineering principles.
“We were struck by the optimism and passion of the essays,” said Mike Drummond, editor of Inventors Digest. “In the end, it was tremendously hard selecting just four winners. But the winning essays excelled at clearly connecting the dots between desires, possibilities and overall societal impact.”
Inventors Digest thanks the generosity of the following sponsors. Without their contributions, the essay contests would not have been possible:
General Patent Corporation
Imagine Cup (Microsoft)
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation
Inventors Digest, the nation’s longest-running magazine for the inventing industry, celebrates the spirit and practice of innovation and its intersection with business. Contact Inventors Digest for information on sponsorship opportunities for next year’s contest.
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