Culture

Young Women Inventors Win at Ant-Man Micro-Tech Challenge

Five winners of the Ant-Man Micro-Tech Challenge competition, who had created do-it-yourself projects with microtechnology, walked the red carpet at the Dolby Theatre® on Friday, June 29, before the Ant-Man premiere. The contest, sponsored by Dolby along with Marvel, Disney, Visa, and Raspberry Pi, was designed to encourage teenage girls to innovate in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (often called STEM).

To enter the contest, girls ages 14 to 18 from across the United States designed and built a do-it-yourself project using at least one readily available microtechnology. The contest guidelines encouraged creation of projects that were “utilitarian, artistic, or just plain fun,” and that used found materials, including ones that might usually end up in a landfill. Each applicant submitted a video in which she demonstrated the project and explained how it would inspire other girls to pursue interests in STEM. Each winner led a workshop in her area to help others build similar projects.

Here’s a list of the winners and the winning projects:

Elizabeth Almasy of North Carolina, age 17, built an automated bubble blower in the shape of an octopus. Servos and microcontrollers allowed the inventor to have some fun with science.

Maxine Hartnett of Colorado, age 17, created a sound-activated paper lantern that uses PWM pins to alter LED light levels, causing the lantern to change color and blink in time to music.

Anna Nixon of Oregon, age 14, transformed a teddy bear into an interactive character with voice recognition that can detect facial features and voices, and that carries a graphical user interface. She hopes that it will be useful in health settings to help children be less fearful when they visit the doctor.

Ashita Patel of Georgia, age 16, created a robotic arm controlled by any artist who draws on a computer screen. She would like her project to inspire people to include art and design in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Allison White of Utah, age 16, worked with electrical circuits and programming to create a showerhead that lights up when the user exceeds their water usage. The project may help people in drought-stricken areas save water.

The five winners arrived in Southern California on June 28 and spent the next few days learning about innovative uses of technology. At the Dolby Burbank offices, Poppy Crum, Senior Principal Scientist, introduced them to innovative research on data-driven sensory intelligence.

“This is a STEM challenge that can really make a difference,” said Crum. “These exceptionally thoughtful young women will now have the opportunity to share and build their inventions with other young women. It is the best way to inspire new technology leaders of the future.”

The young scientists put on goggles to test virtual reality applications and later met with other Dolby employees to try their hand at mixing audio for movies at a sound board.

“I was very inspired by the young women inventors and was impressed by the creativity and ingenuity of their projects,” said Andrew Dahlkemper, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Dolby, who had served on the judges’ panel alongside representatives of the other sponsoring organizations.

“One aspect I especially like about the contest is that the winners will provide hands-on workshops for girls in their hometowns to help spark further interest in science and technology,” said Dahlkemper. “I am proud that Dolby was a part of this effort and look forward to supporting additional initiatives that encourage girls’ interest and success in STEM.”

At the Ant-Man movie premiere, the winners were treated like stars, getting hair and makeup treatments and meeting with Ant-Man stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, and Michael Douglas, and Marvel comic book icon Stan Lee.

Additional activities on the winners’ whirlwind technology tour included spending time with Victoria Alonso, Executive Vice President of Visual Effects and Postproduction at Marvel; touring the Walt Disney Studios and attended the Evolution of Technology workshop, which included going behind the scenes at Disney’s California Adventure; and meeting with Disney Imagineers at Disneyland.

To learn more about the winners and their projects, watch this video.