Thursday, October 21, 2021

Why 13-year-old Lauren Fedorick wants to ‘make learning less boring’

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13-year-old Lauren Fedorick is no ordinary 13-year-old. When I met her a couple months ago, Lauren wasn’t even born the year that Prince William created the Earthshot Prize to encourage kids to harness science and technology for the greater good.

Lauren, a 14-year-old sophomore at Don Bosco Preparatory School in Ramsey, New Jersey, is one of nine finalists in the student-inventor category who will be among a select group of people to receive a $10,000 prize at the Earthshot Final Event in London on June 15th.

The Earthshot Prize calls on young innovators to create products that can save the planet, or to invent solutions that could mitigate the effects of climate change, strengthen the economy and health, and contribute to human well-being.

“I really didn’t think I was going to get picked for it. I thought someone else from the other countries was going to get it and I would have to be on the web,” Lauren said. “I was excited, though.”

Lauren came up with the idea for her product while she was watching the video “Planet Earth,” which tells the story of life on our planet. Then she began dreaming up a way to make learning even more entertaining.

“I’ve always been interested in making learning less boring and more interesting. Science and math are so boring and it feels like you’re trapped in the classroom,” Lauren said. “My senior year of high school, my mom was having a sick baby. I decided to use that time to try and do a project on how to make learning more interesting.”

Lauren started by reaching out to people she knew in the entrepreneurial community to get their feedback and ideas. She got expert advice from her mentor, Consuelo Shen.

“The only thing that made it easier for me was she just made it fun and that’s what made it more enjoyable,” Lauren said.

Then Lauren focused on crafting and building her project — a touchscreen color-coded computer that lets teachers show what students are studying with a graph chart.

All the components of Lauren’s product are operated by a hand crank.

“It works really quickly. It works with a wooden frame so it looks a lot like a wood stock that you can’t unplug,” Lauren said. “There’s a screw under it that keeps everything from falling apart. It’s a pretty practical thing to have there for your teacher.”

While her project has proven to be a breeze to build, Lauren admitted that engineering was a little harder for her.

“Engineers have a different mentality. They have more of a problem-solving mindset and they have a different way of understanding how to do things,” Lauren said. “But I didn’t feel that I had a different approach from others, so I figured it out myself and made the ideas what I felt best about.”

Lauren said that one of the best experiences she had with her project was going to talks given by scientists and scientists’ families and hearing their experiences. She also said that getting to do her project in a classroom environment was a big plus for her.

“Teachers give you a lot of feedback,” Lauren said. “They’ll make you look at different things and you’ll know when you have a problem. I definitely think that I learned more from them than if I had done the project in a lab.”

At the Final Event, Lauren and the other finalists will be judged by some of the biggest names in business and politics. Thomas Offner, the vice president and chief operating officer of Bon Jovi Management, also sits on the board of The Prince William Foundation, which is supporting the Earthshot Prize.

“He helped us start the program. And he asked me to be a part of it,” Lauren said. “I know he thinks it’s really important to support young people in the things that they’re interested in.”

As Lauren’s name has been floated as a potential winner, she has been inundated with messages of support from people who are hoping that she will be awarded the award.

“It’s been really cool,” Lauren said. “It’s only been a couple of months since my father told me I got picked for it. But I’m so excited.”

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