For seventh-grade inventor Gabriel Mesa, a recent trip to the 14th annual Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge was quite the experience.
He wasn’t named “America’s Top Young Scientist” but as one of 10 nationwide finalists Mesa not only presented his invention for sleep apnea patients but also had the chance to meet some scientific celebrities, compete in challenges and try some top-notch scientific equipment.
“It was a really good experience,” Mesa said.
Mesa recently returned from the competition, including the final event at the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, MN.
Although he was one of the youngest competitors, he held his own very well, including the presentation of his invention in front of a live audience and an even larger worldwide audience via webcast, said his mother Anne Hunter.
Hunter was also excited to see her son soak it all in — a collaborative project making a removable car logo with 3M products, scientific challenges, using microscopes costing hundreds of thousands and meeting his 3M mentor Dr. Martin B. Wolk and Danny Forster of Science Channel’s Build it Bigger.
It wasn’t Mesa’s first competition but certainly the most elaborate with expenses paid, top-notch accommodations and more.
"They treated us like royalty," Hunter said.
Perhaps most importantly, she saw her son's excitement at being around it all.
“What was really exciting and continues to be is to see how happy and excited Gabriel is to be around real science,” Hunter said. “His enthusiasm really comes out in those situations.”
In addition, Mesa brought home $1,000, a $500 Discovery Education adventure gift card, a large DVD collection of Discovery Shows and more.
For the competition, Mesa entered his sleep apnea collar that in part uses a surgical steel piercing, magnetic device and a collar to keep a patient’s tongue forward at night, which could provide a practical and less expensive alternative to surgery.
It’s Mesa’s fourth invention, all of which have designed to provide better solutions for conditions he’s seen in his family. His father has sleep apnea.
His other inventions include a better way of attaching tracheotomy tubes to patients, a watch with pictures and medical instructions for dementia patients and an IV alert system that notifies doctors or caregivers in the event of a disconnection.
He almost entered the IV alert in the recent competition but learned that the sleep apnea device could potentially help a greater number of people. He also feels it’s one that has some good chance of being marketed.
Mesa’s inventions begin when he had the chance to enter Canton Intermediate School’s Invention, Classification, Experimentation and Research (ICER) competition a few years ago. Since then, he’s entered that competition and the Connecticut Invention Convention for several years. Along the way, teachers have encouraged his interests and helped in other ways. This year, he was able to practice his presentation to "Team 7" at Canton Middle School.
“His teachers have been incredible supportive of his interests,” Hunter said.
Mesa also plays saxophone, travel soccer and is a member of the Canton High School Chemistry Club.
Despite his scientific experience, Mesa is not sure if it will be his career.
“I’m just exploring,” he said.
But Mesa does like to read about science and technology and doesn’t see that changing no matter what he does in life.
“I’ll stay with it all my life event if it’s not my job,” he said. “I like to see how technology and science kind of progresses.”
For photos and video of the event log on to http://www.newsinfusion.com/events/youngscientist2012