STEMspiration 2023: Celebrating a Year of Remarkable Student-Led Inventions

Dec 5, 2023 | In the News

The world of STEM is filled with young talent, as evidenced by the incredible achievements of students nationwide this year. At STEM Greenhouse, these stories of innovation, like Herman Bekele’s cancer-fighting soap, Waleed Addas’s PlantBot, and the AACU Switch from Brandywine High School students, not only inspire us but also resonate deeply with our mission to cultivate young talent in STEM. By showcasing these remarkable accomplishments, we reaffirm our commitment to providing accessible STEM education and mentorship, essential for nurturing the next generation of problem solvers.

Cancer-Fighting Soap – Herman Bekele, 14, Virginia

Heman Bekele, a 14-year-old freshman from Woodson High School in Northern Virginia, was awarded “America’s Top Young Scientist” for his innovative creation of a skin cancer-treating soap. This groundbreaking soap, designed to replenish the skin with dendritic cells to fight cancer, emerged from Bekele’s aspiration to provide an equitable and accessible skin cancer treatment globally. After conducting research with the help of University of Virginia professors, Bekele developed the soap and triumphed in Discovery Education’s 3M Young Scientist Challenge, securing the top prize of $25,000. Post-competition, Bekele hopes to commercialize the soap within five years and establish a nonprofit to aid those in need. His future aspirations include pursuing a biomedical or electrical engineering career.

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PlantBot – Waleed Addas, Missouri

Waleed Addas, a first-year aerospace engineering student from Missouri S&T, received global recognition at the 34th International Invention, Innovation and Technology Exhibition (ITEX) for his “PlantBot” invention, earning titles as the best young inventor and best invention.


The PlantBot, a mobile robot with a machine learning algorithm, autonomously waters plants based on various factors like plant health and environmental conditions. It also features a condenser to produce its own water and can autonomously recharge, similar to common household floor-cleaning robots. Addas’s mentor, Dr. Phillip Mulligan, provided significant support, utilizing resources from S&T’s Makerspace and Product Innovation Creativity Center, which also sponsored their trip to Malaysia. Addas plans to commercialize PlantBot for home gardens within two years to enhance environmental and economic water conservation.


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AACU Switch, Brandywine High School, Delaware

Students from Brandywine High School in Delaware won Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow STEM Competition with their invention, an affordable Assistive Appliance Control Unit (AACU). Designed to assist Americans with independent living disabilities, the AACU offers a low-cost alternative to existing technologies, being producible for under five dollars. It features a simple printed circuit board assembly and an eco-friendly enclosure made from recycled PVC from construction sites. Built to endure tough environments, the AACU not only aids those with disabilities but also forms part of an initiative to promote active lifestyles for people who may acquire disabilities. Additionally, the project incorporates community collaborations to train young adults with disabilities in employable skills, thereby enhancing accessibility and affordability in independent living solutions for those with physical and cognitive challenges.

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Have these amazing students inspired you? Ask your school about participating in next year’s Invention Convention. Nationals will be held next June (2024) in Dearborn, MI.

The Invention Convention is a competition designed to foster creativity and problem-solving skills for K-12 students, guiding them through inventing and culminating in events where they can showcase and compete with their inventions. 

Participants gain invaluable experience in innovation, with opportunities for recognition and skill development in areas like critical thinking, entrepreneurship, and presentation.

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