East Ridge student wins merit award in national invention contest
Woodbury resident Emma St. Louis said she has always been a fan of science.
"I like how simple things have really big, complicated explanations," she said, "and it makes you really think about what you take for granted."
St. Louis, who is going to be a freshman this fall at East Ridge High School, likes science so much that she has even dabbled in inventing - and received a prestigious award as a result of it.
She was recently named the Minnesota Merit Winner for the 2012 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.
The Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge is a national science competition for students in grades 5 through 8. The contest asked students to create a one- to two-minute video describing a new innovation or solution that could solve or impact an everyday problem related to how people move, keep healthy or make a difference.
One winner was chosen from each state to receive scholarship money.
St. Louis bounced around a number of different invention ideas before landing on "echo location goggles."
"I thought of heat vision goggles and how they have some flaws and I thought about how I could make it better," she said, "and then I thought bats."
The way St. Louis envisioned echo location goggles working would be that they would send out sound waves and bounce off objects before returning to the goggles to create a three-dimensional picture.
St. Louis said she felt echo location goggles could help someone trying to find the exit in a fire, or just trying to find a misplaced object.
She said she spent about three months researching echo location, sonar and even studying how bats communicate.
In her video, St. Louis discussed her invention, the science behind it and how it would work.
Since St. Louis couldn't create a prototype, she drew a picture of her invention and used a Slinky to demonstrate how sound waves move.
"The hardest part was trying not to be nervous while I was speaking in front of the camera," she said.
The Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge sent a letter to St. Louis commending her on how well she communicated the idea, how much she understood the science and her passion and excitement.
St. Louis said she was excited to be named the Minnesota Merit Winner.
"I was really surprised since it was the whole state," she said.
St. Louis' father Mark said he was very impressed with his daughter throughout the whole process.
"It was very cool because it was all on her own initiative," he said. "It was very exciting to see.
"I think it was a good learning experience for her to just learn how to present herself."
St. Louis said this probably isn't her last venture into inventing since she already has a few other ideas floating around including a water filtration system and a memorization tool.
"I was actually going to invent something this summer," she said. "Sometimes I forget things, so if I could actually create something that would roll down and I could see it on my glasses."
"She's got a lot of big ideas," Mark St. Louis said.
St. Louis said she hopes to maybe go into engineering, entomology or architecture in the future.
"I'm considering a few different careers in science," she said.
St. Louis said she enjoyed the whole Young Scientist Challenge process - coming up with idea, researching it and writing it out.
"I learned that you really have to stick with something if you want it to succeed," she said.