Teen scientists win $1.8 million at this year’s competition.
Benjamin “Benjy” Firester, 18, of New York City, won the top award of $250,000 for developing a mathematical model that uses disease data to predict how weather patterns could spread spores of late blight fungus, which caused the Irish Potato Famine. The plant disease still causes billions of dollars in global crop damages annually.
Second place honors and $175,000 went to Natalia Orlovsky, 18, of Chadds Ford, Pa. She examined the response of lung epithelial cells to fluids used in vaping, a practice often promoted as a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes.
Third place honors and $150,000 went to Isani Singh, 18, of Aurora, Colo., for her work toward determining if women with Turner syndrome, a rare disease in which all or part of a woman’s second sex chromosome is missing, may have some cells with two X chromosomes.
Fourth Place: Muhammad (Shahir) Rahman, 17, of Portland, Ore., received a $100,000 award for engineering an internet-enabled microwave oven capable of simultaneously heating different foods on the same plate to optimal temperatures without requiring user input.
Fifth Place: David Wu, 17, of Potomac, Md., received a $90,000 award for his project studying the patterns of sequential prime numbers.
Sixth Place: Kyle Fridberg, 17, of Boulder, Colo., received an $80,000 award for discovering a new compound that may be useful in improving rechargeable battery technology.
Seventh Place: Vinjai Vale, 17, of Exeter, N.H., received a $70,000 award for creating a system that may improve the ability of convolutional neural networks to understand complex scenes.
Eighth Place: Skyler Jones, 17, of Ossining, N.Y., received a $60,000 award for her study of perovskite crystals used in solar cells. She identified key properties of the perovskite’s atomic structure that make it a highly efficient semiconductor, despite its structural defects and low stability.
Ninth Place: Syamantak Payra, 16, of Friendswood, Texas, received a $50,000 award for creating a smart bionic leg brace that bends the knee automatically as the wearer walks.
Tenth Place: Raley Schweinfurth, 18, of Portland, Ore., received a $40,000 award for her study of honey, soil and tree contamination levels following an insecticide-spraying incident in 2013 in Oregon that killed more than 50,000 bees.
The remaining 30 finalists each received $25,000.