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Virginia Teen Named America’s Top Young Scientist for Inventing Cancer-Fighting Soap

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by Veracity Savant

October 23, 2023

14-year-old Heman Bekele is a ninth grader at W.T. Woodson High School in Annandale, Virginia. And for the last four months, Bekele has been competing in the 3M Young Scientist Challenge, WCAX reports..

Over the summer, Bekele was paired with 3M mentor Deborah Isabelle, who works on developing new products in 3M’s Automotive Aftermarket Division, to help bring his idea to life. Bekele made it to the top 10 finalists, winning the 2023 3M Challenge last week and earning the title of America’s Top Young Scientist. 

Bekele won the first place prize for his invention of a soap that treats skin cancer. The Melanoma Treating Soap is a compound-based bar that is more affordable and accessible than any other of the traditional skin cancer treatments on the market. At just $0.50 to produce each bar of soap, Bekele’s invention is revolutionary. And he hopes to use his prize winnings to perfect his creation and develop a nonprofit that will distribute the soap to communities who need it the most. 

The teen competed against nine other finalists at 3M’s global headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota. Each finalist was evaluated on ingenuity, innovative thinking, application of STEM principles, passion, research, presentation skills, and their ability to inspire. This is 3M’s 16th year of the competition, with previous winners being featured in major publications and many going on to patent their inventions, create nonprofits, and earn a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. 

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While Bekele took home first place, California teen Shripriya Kalbhavi took home second place for her EasyBZ invention, an affordable microneedle patch that allows for self-automated drug delivery without needles or pills. Massachusetts teen Sarah Wang took home third place for her Spring Epilepsy Detection Glove, which detects epileptic seizures through common hand movements and tracks seizure statistics via smartphone. Both Shripriya and Sarah took home a $2,000 cash prize. 

Photo by ACK/ 3M/ PR Newswire

In addition to his nonprofit, Bekele also hopes to become a successful electrical engineer over the next 15 years.

And if his current success is any indication, his future looks very bright. 

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Photo by ACK/3M/PR Newswire

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Vicky Williams
Vicky Williams
7 months ago

Great work thank God you find your gift, utilise it with your skilful innovation to help the masses suffering from this devastating and debilitating disease. Keep climbing, God bless you and all those who help you to achieve this phenomenal success.

Mulk
7 months ago
Reply to  Vicky Williams

Good work and keep going

Barbara Pecze
Barbara Pecze
7 months ago

What amazing kids! Bekele has an awesome gift; soap for melanoma is really needed, too many people are getting this horrible cancer!

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