3M/Discovery has encouraged the YSC Finalists to learn about the various products 3M makes, then look at the world around us and see if there are any everyday problems or inconveniences that could be solved using a 3M product.
When I looked at the 3M website, I was AMAZED to see how many products – and how many different kinds of products – it produces. And they have some pretty cutting-edge stuff, too. 3M definitely is not just Post-Its and Scotch Tape!
I had a lot of fun thinking about how to apply 3M products to solve a common problem or inconvenience. I thought about by considering different population groups – seniors, disabled, third-world, etc.
My favorite idea was a braille printer that would spray dots of fast-curing epoxy. When I discussed this idea with my 3M Science Mentor, Dr. Patrick Hager, he explained that 3M’s fast-curing epoxy (using UV light) is toxic. Not a great idea to have people running their fingers over toxic dots! But still, someone needs to invent a much less expensive braille printer – the ones that are out there are way too expensive for most blind people.
This was an interesting exercise, though, because I now have a better idea about how innovators – like the innovators at 3M – come up with their inventions and solutions.
I’m now back to working on my travois. I’m focusing on the frame and making sure I pick materials that are lightweight, inexpensive, and durable. But I’ve got a lot to learn! This week I went to the University of North Carolina’s Kenan Science Library and checked out a lot of books about material sciences, engineering, and composites (See my video).