18 year old wins $75 000 for playing with organic waste

18 year old wins $75 000 for playing with organic waste

“You are already winners” is the usual opening lines of any award ceremony. However, the  Intel International Science and Engineering Fair is no ordinary award ceremony. Every year thousands of high school students gather to compete for the $4 million in prizes and scholarships and only the winners of the local and regional science, technology, engineering and math expos are selected to exhibit.

At the 2016, Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix Arizona, I was fortunate to get a glimpse of what the future leaders of our world are capable of:

So who won ?


Han Jie (Austin) Wang - winner of Intel Inernational Science and Engineering Fair Syamantak Payra - winner of Intel Inernational Science and Engineering FairKathy Liu - winner of Intel Inernational Science and Engineering Fair

The winner: Han Jie (Austin) Wang, 18, of Vancouver, Canada, who won $75,000 for developing microbial fuel cells (MFCs) that more efficiently convert organic waste into electricity. Wang, identified specific genes in genetically enhanced E. coli bacteria that enabled them to generate power efficiently. His system can produce significantly more power than existing MFC processes at a cost that is competitive with solar energy, which he believes will make MFCs commercially viable.

15 year old Syamantak Payra, of Friendswood, Texas, received one of two Intel Foundation Young Scientist Awards of US$50,000.  The project was for developing a low-cost electronically aided knee brace that allows an individual with a weakened leg to walk more naturally. When Payra tested his prototype with two individuals partially disabled by polio, it almost immediately restored a more natural gait and increased mobility.

Kathy Liu, 17, of Salt Lake City, Utah, received the other Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award of US$50,000 for developing an alternative battery component that could significantly improve battery performance and safety. Liu’s rechargeable battery is smaller and more lightweight, without the risk of fire inherent in lithium-ion batteries, which are used in planes, mobile phones and even hover boards.

“Intel congratulates this year’s winners and hopes that their work will inspire other young innovators to apply their curiosity and ingenuity to today’s global challenges,” said Rosalind Hudnell, vice president in Human Resources, director of Corporate Affairs at Intel Corporation, and president of the Intel Foundation. “This international science and engineering exhibition is an excellent example of what can be achieved when students from different backgrounds, perspectives and geographies come together to share ideas and solutions.”

South African  Brynn Cauldwell from Johannesburg, won the United Technologies Corporation prize of $3,000 in UTC common stock for projects showing excellence in science and engineering. What a great achievement !

So not your average school projects!

Get Kids into STEM ASAP

Walking around the expo, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were a large number of girls presenting their projects. This is a good sign. Companies like Intel have been actively campaigning for students, especially girls, to purse careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

The problem with STEM is that parents (and schools) tend to lumber it all together into one “entity” – it is not. Some kids love robotics-engineering but hate the science. Some love the complication of math problem but will shy away from mixing chemicals together. And that’s ok. STEMP is not an all-or-nothing environment and we  need to force kids to do it all.

There are also some great websites that teach STEM in a fun and exciting way for kids of all ages. I like and recommend the following:



Note: I was a guest of Intel at this event

Liron Segev - TheTechieGuy

Liron Segev is an award-winning tech blogger, YouTube strategist, and Podcaster. He helps brands tell their stories in an engaging way that non-techies can relate to. He also drinks way too much coffee! @Liron_Segev on Twitter

One thought on “18 year old wins $75 000 for playing with organic waste

Comments are closed.