Only a decade ago, the image below could only have been the stuff of Hollywood fiction—if that. Two black males conversing in the White House: One is the President, the other a modern-day tinkerer who may well be on his way to becoming a world-class engineer.
Another surreal detail: The President is holding the tinkerer’s 3D-printed replica of the same edifice they’re standing in. (In the featured image above, he is blowing bubbles through a wand 3D-printed from the same tinkerer’s collection.)
For practically his entire life, 9-year-old Jacob Leggette, a resident of Baltimore, Maryland, has seen a black man in the White House. A participant in the 2016 White House Science Fair, held on 13 April, Leggette’s specialty is experimenting with 3D printers and other types of digital manufacturing technologies. His next goal is to experiment with the 3D printing of artificial organs, which is actually a thing.
It’s that kind of bold thinking that may someday result in a black Nobel-prize-winning scientist.
That pioneer could be one of these young scholars (participants in a previous White House Science Fair):
“As a society, we have to celebrate outstanding work by young people in science at least as much as we do Super Bowl winners,” said President Barack Obama about the White House Science Fair, an event he started in 2010. “Because superstar biologists and engineers and rocket scientists and robot-builders…They’re the folks who are going to come up with cures for diseases and new sources of energy, and help us build healthier, more successful societies.”
Since its inception, the White House Science Fair has invited hundreds of young aspiring scientists and engineers to showcase their ideas and handiwork to the President, and ultimately the world. Of the 39 projects presented this year, six of them (including Leggette’s) were led by a young black boy or girl.
Here are those six projects, and their stories (courtesy of the White House Science Fair 2016 site):
Tinkering with Additive Manufacturing Tools and Techniques
After being introduced to 3D printing, Jacob was hooked and wrote letters to different printer companies, asking if they would donate a 3D printer to him in return for feedback on how easily a then-8-year-old could use their device. His sales pitch worked, and he has been creating toys and games ever since.
Team Designs Robot to Clean Up New York City Subways
A team of young engineers from New York City, Amro Halwah, Tanzania native Stephen Mwingria (center) and Si Ya “Wendy” Ni saw a problem and wanted to do something about it: they and their classmates were often delayed getting to and from school because of rubbish fires in the subway system. So, for their Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam invention, they built a 100-lb robot that moves along subway system rails, vacuuming up debris to make New York City’s transportation system cleaner and more efficient for kids like them who take the subway to school every day.
Georgia Teen’s Award-winning Research on Effects of Low-Dose Radiation On Patient Tissue
Nicole O’Dell, 17, of Stone Mountain, Georgia, won first place at the National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE) National Competition for her research on the effects of low-dose radiation. Nicole’s project evaluated if the growth of patient diagnostic specimens are affected by exposure to low dose X-rays from security scanning machines, which are routinely used when transporting materials between research and diagnostic labs. Nicole hopes to use biotechnology to further the world’s understanding of cellular biology, replication, injury, and cellular healing, and is aiming to reach these career goals by pursuing an MD-PhD in biochemistry.
Trip to Solar Sprint Nationals is the First Flight for All-Girl Maryland Team
The first-place team in the Maryland Army Education Outreach Program (AEOP) Junior Solar Sprint competition, from Windsor Valley Boys & Girls club in Harford County, Maryland, is comprised of Kylah Cain-Ward, 13, Destani Cularri, 11, Adriana Pusey, 13, and Jordan West, 12, of Edgewood, MD. They designed, built and raced a solar-powered vehicle. The team was so focused on testing designs, data collection, gear ratios, and time trials that they hadn’t even thought about the winning the competition, but that’s exactly what they did in the state-wide solar car race.
Young Inventor Designs 3D Printed Solution to Pesky Problem
Bothered by an everyday annoyance—tangled headphone cords—Shemar Coombs, 19, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, used computer-aided design (CAD) software and a 3D printer to invent a cellphone case with a specially-designed channel along its edge that allows headphones to be easily wrapped and secured, while remaining tangle-free. The teenage entrepreneur took the invention all the way to the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship National Challenge.
This Teen–who has been accepted to all 8 Ivy League schools–is Putting an End to Oil Leaks
Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna, 17, of Elmont, New York, was named a finalist in the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search for adding a nanoclay ingredient called attapulgite to cement slurries to improve the undersea cement seals that keep offshore oil wells from leaking. She found that adding nanoclay at just 0.3 percent of the total volume of the mixture markedly improved the mixture’s properties. Augusta’s initial interest in cement stemmed from her learning that production of cement accounts for 7% of human-made carbon emissions.