14-Year-Old Wins America's Best Young Scientist for Inventing Headphones That Treat Ear Infections

The 3M Young Scientist Challenge is the most important middle school science competition in the United States. This year's grand prize winner is a 14-year-old Asian-American girl from San Diego, California.

 Leanne Fan invented Finsen Headphones, a low-cost headphone device that uses machine learning and blue light to detect and treat middle ear infections in children, potentially preventing up to 60 percent of hearing loss in children.

As a finalist, Leanne was assigned a mentor, Dr. Ross Behling, a research specialist at 3M's Materials Lab, who worked with her one-on-one over the summer to take her idea from concept to prototype. The nine finalists then competed over two days in October at 3M Company headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Otitis media affects 700 million people worldwide and kills around 21,000 each year, many of those affected are children from low-income families. Diagnosing and treating otitis media can often be extremely challenging in the absence of a medical condition and/or healthcare, Leanne's idea was to provide a low-cost, antibiotic-free option for detecting and treating middle ear infections.

The incoming high school freshman received a prize of $25,000, a special trip, and the title of "America's Top Young Scientist", and she plans to use part of the prize money to apply for a patent for the headset. The second and third-place winners each received $1,000 and a special trip.

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