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14-Year-Old Becomes America's Top Young Scientist With Skin Cancer Treatment

The new 'America's Top Young Scientist' has been revealed.

Herman Bekele

14-year-old Annandale, Virginia native Heman Bekele won the competition after developing a soap that costs 50 cents and helps to treat skin cancer. Bekele received the award at 3M's headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Oct. 9 and 10, according to a news release announcing the award.

America's Top Young Scientist competition is presented by 3M and Discovery Education, which is considered one of the country's top middle school science competitions, and the competition was created to help students between the fifth and eighth grades create innovative ideas to change the world.

Prior to being awarded the honor, Bekele spent four months competing against other middle school students in the competition. As part of the award, winners of the competition are given a $25,000 cash prize. Participants and finalists in the competition were evaluated on their ingenuity and innovative thinking, application of STEM principles, demonstration of passion and research, presentation skills and ability to inspire others.

"The need for scientists and innovators to develop solutions for the world's biggest challenges has never been greater. This year's Young Scientist Challenge finalists have demonstrated the skills required to reimagine what's possible—intelligence, curiosity, collaboration, and resilience," said John Banovetz, 3M executive vice president, chief technology officer, and environmental responsibility. "The magnitude and complexity of the issues these young minds are working to solve is inspiring. Congratulations to this year's finalists—we can't wait to see what you do next!"

"I believe that young minds can make a positive impact on the world," Heman said in his submission for the award. "I have always been interested in biology and technology, and this challenge gave me the perfect platform to showcase my ideas," he added.

According to statistics, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, with an average annual treatment cost of $8.1 billion. There were approximately 1.5 million new cases of skin cancer estimated in 2020 according to The National Institute of Health.

As a winner of the competition, Bekele will work with Deborah Isabelle, Product Engineering Specialist, Abrasives, 3M Automotive Aftermarket Division to bring his idea to life. Bekele hopes that he can develop his product and create a nonprofit organization that will distribute this low-cost solution to communities in need.

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