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Next gen of STEM Innovators garner awards

Sharon Lin won a “Young Innovators to Watch” award for her app for underdeveloped communities that identifies bacteria and abiotic particles in water.
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A trio of talented tech entrepreneurs received some much deserved attention at the third annual New York City “Young Innovators to Watch” awards.

In July, the winners exhibited their amazing projects at a special presentation of prizes in Manhattan.

These students, under the age of 20, are actively shaping the future by combining imagination with technology.

“They have been busy working on visionary projects that rise to the challenge [of] resolv[ing] existing societal issues, such as water quality, food waste, and physical injuries sustained by the visually impaired,” said Robin Raskin, the program’s creator. “Being recognized at an industry technology showcase is really empowering for these winners.”

Projects are ranked on their creativity, user design, use of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math — also known as STEAM; scalability; and civic-mindedness.

Winning projects include an algorithm that accurately measures lithium-ion battery percentages and a smartphone device that records customizable studio-quality sound.

“We started the Young Innovators four years ago, with the mission of rewarding students with entrepreneurial and innovative ideas by giving them scholarships and allowing them to have an awards reception at one of our technology events in either New York or Las Vegas. (We do this twice a year.)” said Raskin.

“We think it’s important to recognize STEM and high-tech initiatives at a young age, because if these students get some reinforcement, they’re more likely to continue.” So far, they’ve awarded 41 students and some of them are now in businesses of their own.

Three of those 12 highly talented award recipients weighed in about their recent wins and talked about their outstanding projects.

Michael Klamkin, 16

Winner for his Dual Extended Kalman Filtering algorithm, Michael Klamkin lives in Staten Island with his parents, both Russian immigrants. “Our family is a blend of traditional Russian culture–values and modern American culture,” he said. “I wouldn’t change it for the world!”

In his spare time, the clever teen has been designing and prototyping a small satellite called the MTS-1, as well as studying and writing, so he can get into a challenging university and continue exploring his passion for engineering.

Your recent win

“The event was amazing! I had put so much effort into developing this project. The work finally paid off when I saw that e-mail informing me that I won,” Michael recalled, adding: “My family was ecstatic. I am extremely lucky to have parents that actively participate in my life — including the academic–scientific side — so they understood just how important this was to me and how symbolic this win was to me. This is the first ‘scholarship’ I had won, and it has inspired me to continue looking for opportunit­ies.”

Describe your project

“It’s a new approach to monitoring the state of charge of lithium-ion polymer batteries. In English, this means that I am applying an algorithm that is typically used for other applications (such as GPS positioning) to calculate battery percentage in small robots,” he explained. “My method allows robots, among other battery-powered devices, to be safer and more efficient, while also maximizing battery usage to squeeze out the last bits of power when it’s needed most.”

It’s a new way to help more accurately measure battery life — an industry-wide problem that he may solve one day.

Future plans

“I plan to go to a university and become an electrical engineer. However, I understand that life may lead me on a different path, so I am keeping my options open. I have recently begun considering going into the financial sector doing quantitative analysis,” he said.


“I enjoy building, designing, and operating multicopters (drones); and making small electronics projects.”

Sharon Lin, 18

Winner for her White Water app, Sharon Lin attended Stuyvesant High School and is now a freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She lives with her large family in Corona, Queens. This summer, she worked on poetry performances as the New York City Youth Poet Laureate.

Your recent win

“I found out I was a Young Innovator during my high school graduation. While I was about to walk across the stage and receive my diploma, I texted my parents, and I could tell how excited they were in the audience,” Sharon recalled. “It was such a great moment to be celebrating our successes and looking forward to new experiences to come!”

Describe your project

“It’s an app for underdeveloped communities that identifies bacteria and abiotic particles in water, based on a photo sample, making it easier for underdeveloped communities to take preventative measures to avoid exposure to water-borne illnesses like malaria. Through image recognition, it allows any user to identify pollutants or harmful particles in their water,” she explained.

According to the judges, Sharon is the only two-time winner. Her project is based on solid and unique research. She’s a natural scientist, who looks at a problem and knows how to tackle it creatively. Plus, she knows how to articulate the benefits of her work.

Future plans

“I’m planning on studying electrical engineering and computer science and applied mathematics. In addition, I’m planning on continuing my work in research at the MIT Media Lab and the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology Labs,” Sharon said. “I’m hoping to work as a data scientist or consultant in the near future, although I’m not entirely sure what my future plans are. I’d really like to work on a startup, and I have a few projects that I’m definitely looking into scaling up into larger businesses.”


“I really enjoy filmmaking and photography. I also have a penchant for hiking, meditation, and baking.”

Priya Mittal, 17

Winner for her GoGreen app, Priya Mittal lives in Manhattan with her family. She said her app “allows restaurants and juice bars to purchase imperfect produce directly from farms at a 20 percent markdown, to reduce food waste. Farmers can still sell produce that they would normally throw away and increase profit margins.”

According to the judges, Priya’s project tackles the important social issue of food waste and feeding the hungry, with a simple database design. She demonstrated a keen understanding of the issue and tells the story of how “ugly and imperfect fruits and veggies” can be used to help so many.

Raskin reflected on this year’s innovators, “This is hard stuff. I’m extremely impressed with the students’ drive to improve how we participate in the world, today and in the future.”

• • •

New York City Chief Technology Officer, Miguel Gamiño, who spearheads major initiatives aimed at using technology to improve our city for all New Yorkers, added: “These forward-thinking students and their ideas inspire me and my team to keep working toward a stronger, smarter New York City.”

For more information about the application process, visit younginnovatorstowatch.com.

Tammy Scileppi is a Queens-based freelance writer, parent, and regular contributor to New York Parenting.

Posted 12:00 am, October 11, 2017
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