Inspiring Advice From 6 Teen Innovators

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We're always on the look out for inspiring girls who are builders and creators working to change the world. These six teen innovators are doing just that. Simone, Jesseca, Allison, Madison, McKenzie and Ishi are all finalists in this year's Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the world's largest high school science research competition.

Every year, high school students are encouraged to explore their passion for developing innovations through a global network of science fairs. These six girls are part of a group of approximately 1,700 finalists from around the world who were offered the opportunity to compete for $4 million in awards and scholarships at this year's international fair.

These teen girls are amazing. Their projects range from "sunscreen" for your roof to a dress that charges your cell phone through solar power. Check out their inspiring advice and what #BUILTBYGIRLS means to them below.

Simone Braunstien

- What did you build?
In the rapidly emerging field of soft robotics, I helped solve the problem of unpredictable motion by designing a soft robotic gripper to inflate predictably, and combining it, for the first time, with a
verifiable synthesized control system called Linear Temporal Logic Mission Planning Toolkit (LTLMoP) to decrease overall unpredictability.
- Who inspires you?
My co-mentors at Cornell University's Sibley School of Engineering: Professor Hadas Kress-Gazit for her innovative work in verifiably-correct robot control systems and Professor Robert Shepherd for his creativity in applying chemical engineering to problems previously only addressed via mechanical engineering. Also, Professor Conor Walsh and Professor Donal Holland not only for their groundbreaking work in biomedical engineering at the Harvard Biodesign Lab, but also for their firm commitment to the open source engineering community.
- What's your best advice for other teen girls?
If you are fascinated by robotics or engineering, and love to spend time in a machine shop, don't try to fit anyone else's image of what an engineer or maker should look like.
- What does #BUILTBYGIRLS mean to you?
To me, #BUILTBYGIRLS represents the growing community of women in STEM careers who can support and mentor each other. There are so many terrific non-profit organizations which help encourage girls in STEM careers - Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code are two of my favorites!

Jesseca Kusher

- What did you build?
My project tested over 1,440 roofing shingle samples and created a new "sunscreen" to make urban areas more reflective and thereby cut down on the amount of the air pollutant, ozone, that's created.
- Who inspires you and why?
It's hard to decide between Atticus Finch, Jane Goodall, and my mom - but I'd have to say my mom. She's a kick-butt infectious disease doctor and she inspires me everyday with her wit, compassion, and style.
- What's your best advice for other teen girls?
Give yourself time to be you. In a world where everyone seems to have different ideas of who we should be, you should take the time to decide for yourself what it means to be you.
- What does #BUILTBYGIRLS mean to you?
We've finally got a hashtag to spread the love for all those talented young ladies who are out there changing the world with their passion, their ingenuity, and their smiles! Rock on, girls, and keep moving forward!

Allison Clausius

- What did you build?
I designed and fabricated a functioning, washable photovoltaic dress (a.k.a. solar cell dress) to charge cell phones and tablets, with special focus on the angle of the cells to maximize sunlight absorbency. - - Who inspires you and why?
Christian Dior inspires me- the incredible elegance, perfection, and the classic look of his company's clothing continually cause me to fall in love with fashion. His legacy gives me hope that someday I may be able to pave own path and create my own legacy in scientific fashion.
- What's your best advice for other teen girls?
Do not let other people's opinions prevent you from being yourself and achieving your dreams. You can be anything and achieve anything that you wish - just stay focused and continue to love what you do.
- What does #BUILTBYGIRLS mean to you?
#BUILTBYGIRLS means that finally, a breakthrough is happening in the world of science. It means that someday soon, men will no longer dominate the science industry, and women will be confident and thriving in the research industry.

Madison and McKenzie Plyman

- What did you build?
Our project is designed to remove arsenic (III) from contaminated drinking water using iron oxide, dialysis tubing, and a 3D printed filtration mechanism.
- Who inspires you and why? Madison: My mom is my biggest inspiration. She constantly reminds me what it means to have integrity, be virtuous, and have perseverance. She motivates me to be a better person every single day. I would not be where I am without her.
Makenzie: My mom is my inspiration because amidst the struggles she has had to face, she has taught me what it means to stay strong, persevere, and always stay true to oneself.
- What's your best advice for other teen girls?
Madison: Stay true to yourself. Society tends to create an image that girls have to follow, but that's not true. It's important that you embrace your originality and know that you are beautiful inside and out.
Makenzie: Stay true to yourself. A teen girl who is confident in her abilities and not afraid to stand out will get very far in life.
- What does #BUILTBYGIRLS mean to you?
Madison: #BUILTBYGIRLS means that the program is being led by the influence and ingenuity of girls all around the world.
Makenzie: To me, #BUILTBYGIRLS means that something very innovative and impressive was created by girls to help improve society in some way.

Ishi Aron

- What did you build?
I worked on treating acute ischemic stroke using a calcium channel blocker called Verapamil.
- Who inspires you and why?
My mother inspires me more than anyone else in the world. She is the first to congratulate me on my accomplishments, and she is always there for me when something goes wrong. My mom has stayed up with me until 1 a.m. to help me with a project or to listen to me talk about what's on my mind. I know that she will always catch me when I fall, no matter what I do. But what makes my mom so inspirational is her deep and persistent love for me every single day. My mother's loving and encouraging words have often given me the last bit of energy that I need to reach the finish line.
- What's your best advice for other teen girls?
I would say if you try your best to achieve something, and things don't work out, then it wasn't meant to be. However, you should keep trying, and not give up easily. When I was looking for a research lab, it took me four months of emailing mentors until I found a mentor. But a couple weeks later, my mentor changed her mind and said that she could no longer take me. This news was extremely discouraging to me, especially because it took me so long to find someone to work with. I felt that I had wasted hours and hours of my life, and that I would never be able to get research experience in high school. However, I decided to give it another try, and after a few more months of emailing, I was able to start working in a stroke lab. Had I stayed with the previous mentor, I may not be here at the International Science and Engineering Fair today. You have to keep trying, and things will work out for the best. You just have to believe in that.
- What does #BUILTBYGIRLS mean to you?
To me, #BUILTBYGIRLS means a world in which girls are not afraid to go after their visions, dreams, and passions. #BUILTBYGIRLS is when a girl is #fearless, and doesn't let others distract her from achieving her goals.

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