I first learned about the 3M/Discovery Young Scientist Challenge from my best friend, Andrew. Andrew was the North Carolina State Merit Winner in the 2011.
I wanted to enter the contest, as I love scientific challenges and video-editing, but I had no great ideas. Then I remembered how I felt when I learned about the Somali famine and the fact that sometimes children were left on the roadside to die because their parents could not carry them for the 2-3 week treks to the refugee camps.
Africa has a serious need for wheeled transport, as pointed out by Dr. Wendorff's Malawi Handcart Project: http://mercurypoisoningproject.org/malawi/background.html
Dr. Wendorff's handcarts, though, would not work in the Somali famine as they are similar to wheelbarrows and must be carried using hands -- the hands that could hold a malnourished child.
What was needed was a simple transport device that could be pulled without use of hands or restricting the back area (which usually is used for the transportation of a baby or toddler). So I started to think about what had been used in past primitive cultures. Then it hit me -- a travois -- like the American Plains Indians used. But what Africa needs now was a travois on wheels. So I designed it.
Now I am working to improve the design, make contacts in Africa, and find aid agencies who could deploy this in future famines.
Waiting to hear if I was a finalist was tedious. But fortunately I was on an RV trip across America during the time I had to wait, so I had lots of distractions. I found out that I was a finalist when we were at Devil's Tower in Wyoming. We were all excited, sitting there in the RV as Ms. Basche (Discovery) told us the news on speakerphone.