The Most Impressive Kids Graduating From High School This Year

Michaela DePrince

Photo: Bess Kargman

The kids on this list will blow your mind.They’re only 17 or 18 years old, but most of them have already accomplished more than many of us do in our entire lives.

This list includes kids who are graduating from high schools around the country and heading down some amazing paths; some to top-tier schools like Harvard and MIT, some to tech start-ups, and others to incredible futures in the arts.

There’s a young scientist who’s well on her way to curing cancer, a blogger who’s unnerving Apple by finding out its secrets, and a ballerina who’s determined to break down race barriers in the arts, just to name a few.

These kids will change the world–some of them already have. They’re listed here in alphabetical order.

David Boone overcame homelessness and got a full scholarship to Harvard

High School: MC2STEM High School, Cleveland, OH

Why He's Impressive: Boone overcame difficult obstacles--he found himself homeless after gang members burned down his home for not joining their gang--to become a remarkable scholar who will attend Harvard.

'Being homeless was a very challenging time in my life, but was probably the most productive as well,' Boone wrote to us in an email. 'During this time I was able to make some observations about myself, learn some life lessons, strengthen my faith and grow into adulthood.'

Boone recounted the first night he spent outside, when none of his friends or family members answered his phone calls while looking for a place to stay. He said that he felt afraid and alone, but it was his faith in God that got him through that difficult night--which was not his last night outside.

During this time, he devoted himself to his studies. He spent hours studying in school and in an extracurricular program to which he credits much of his success: Minds Matter, whose mission is to help high-achieving high school students from low income families achieve college and academic success.

'Minds Matter has been excellent,' Boone said. 'I mean this with all the sincerity possible; I would not be going to Harvard if it weren't for MM. Minds Matter for me has fostered an environment that was not only comfortable, but productive in the sense that when I did something well, they didn't spend an eternity celebrating it because the people there truly believed that I could do better. I gained so much confidence in my academic capabilities. MM helped me to keep strong when I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders and my mentors in particular, gave me something to believe in.'

With the help of his teachers at school, his mentors at Minds Matter and his family members, David worked diligently and was accepted to Harvard University. He received a full scholarship to college from the Gates Millennium Scholarship and the Ron Brown Scholarship. He admits that when he found out that he received the scholarships he did an 'embarrassing dance' because he was so elated.

Boone is looking forward to the challenge that studying at Harvard will present.

'I plan to study engineering in college because engineering is a field where there is always a new challenge and there is no ultimate accomplishment because you are trained to constantly improve,' Boone said. 'I believe that engineers are the key to solving the worlds most pressing issues, both technological and social. The way that engineers think leaves the door open to immeasurable possibilities and that is very important to the progression of society.'

'I truly believe that I can change the world and I will not consider myself a success until I do,' Boone added.

Plans for Next Year: Boone is planning to attend Harvard in the fall--on a full Gates Millenial Scholarship. He plans to major in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Shree Bose created a drug that may help cure cancer

High School: Fort Worth Country Day, Fort Worth, TX

Why She's Impressive: Bose has a large circle of friends, and there's one in particular who you may have heard of: President Obama. The Commander in Chief has twice publicly recognised her achievements in cancer research and spoken with her in the Oval Office.

If that isn't enough, Bose recently gave a TED Talk about her work with the cancer drug Cisplatin, which also won her first prize at the Google Science Fair and recognition as one of Glamour magazine's Young Amazing Women of the Year.

After watching her grandfather struggle with liver cancer, Bose was determined to help out in any way she could. As a high school student though, her scientific options were limited. She reached out to various hospitals and research facilities, but doctors turned down her requests because they felt she was too inexperienced medically.

The North Texas Science Health centre had no such reservations. Instead, they esteemed her determination and chose to mentor her. The results were exceptional.

Bose chose to study the protein AMP kinase and its reaction with the chemotherapy drug cisplatin. She noticed that when she inhibited this protein, cisplatin was allowed to begin destroying cancer cells once again.

'My project not only contributes to the understanding of cancer drug resistance in knowing that AMPK is involved, but also proposes a newer, more effective, treatment regime for patients who have become resistant to cisplatin,' Bose said. 'For the over 240,000 patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer, this research will hopefully be able to reduce the recurrence rates in patients treated with particular chemotherapy drugs in the future.'

Bose's accomplishments aren't limited to the lab, though. She was also captain of her swim team and editor-in-chief of her school paper.

Plans for Next Year: Bose is currently interning at The National Institute of Health and she'll be attending Harvard in the fall. She plans to study molecular biology and go to medical school. Eventually, she would like to be a physician.

Sitan Chen won third prize in the Siemens Competition for his maths project on grid graphs

High School: Northview High School, Duluth, GA

Why He's Impressive: Chen won third prize--$40,000--in the 2011 Siemens Competition in maths, Science & Technology for his research that could advance how computers multi-task data. His project is called On the Rank Number of Grid Graphs.

'I studied grid graphs, a special class of graphs closely linked to circuit design, and found formulas for the previously unknown rank numbers of grid graphs,' Chen wrote to us. 'These results shed light not just on how to design smaller, more cost-effective circuits, but also on how to optimise searching for data corruptions in computers, assembling complex products like automobiles in factories, and solving problems like climate analysis, medical imaging, and oil exploration using parallel computing.'

He's also a talented pianist and violinist, who has played at Carnegie Hall 6 times. Chen said that he sees music as 'a form of problem solving.'

'It's a chance to tackle challenges related to technique, structure, and interpretation using creativity and intellectual rigour, and at the same time, it's a way to communicate what words cannot,' he said.

Plans for Next Year: Chen plans to attend Harvard in the fall, where he will study mathematics and economics.

Rachel Davis fights fires both in the lab and in the field

High School: Smithtown East High School, St. James, NY

Why She's Impressive: Rachel Davis is a bit of a lab rat when it comes to science, which her coworkers will readily admit. For Davis though, research is a labour of love. She doesn't mind spending hours in the lab late at night. It's gotten to the point where her coworkers joke that she lives there.

Davis's scientific passion is both intrinsic and acquired. She has a natural love for chemistry, but when she was 13, her love took on a whole other shape. That year, her family's home burned down.

In response, Davis began devoting her life to fighting fire, both with chemicals and with her own body. At the age of 16, when she became eligible, she joined the volunteer fire battalion in her town, where her dad is a lieutenant. Then, during her senior year of high school, she began applying for research grants at Stony Brook University to study flame retardant materials. 'I wanted to prevent what happened to me with my fire from happening to other people,' she told us.

Fire was something Davis wanted to fight in any way she could. With the Nissequogue Fire Department she's on the hose and search teams, while in the lab she's poring over literature and experiments to develop hypotheses.

Her hard work in both arenas has paid off. In the lab, she's created a flame retardant plastic that utilizes cellulose -- a material that's used as a flame retardant in clothing. How? She soaked cellulose in a phosphate-based component and then blended it into a biodegradable plastic blend.

'This flame retardant biodegradable plastic can be used for industrial packaging purposes and many other applications, like disposable plasticware and water bottles and much more,' she tells us.

Davis currently has a patent pending on her flame retardant plastic blend, with a few more on the way.

When she's not working with fire, Davis enjoys helping out with her cousin's music news service, Artisan News, and playing the guitar. She also mentors 70 undergraduate researchers at Stony Brook, despite the fact that she's only in high school.

Plans for Next Year: Davis plans to attend MIT in the fall where she will study materials science and engineering. She also hopes to study management.

Michaela DePrince survived a brutal civil war in Africa to become a ballet star in America

Sharline Dominguez is a poet and writer who won the Scholastic Art & Writing Award

Aaron Furrer is a successful entrepreneur who started a factoring business

High School: Monroe High School, Monroe, WA

Why He's Impressive: Aaron Furrer is a successful self-made entrepreneur.

Furrer started Three Firs Factoring, a grassroots accounting business, by using the money he made from raising and selling cows on his family's farm. Yes, Furrer is the head of an ingenious accounting firm who also dabbles in the rearing of livestock and baling of hay.

It all started with a common concern in Furrer's community. Independent truckers (Furrer's uncle owns a freighting company) were having a difficult time paying for their hauls due to climbing fuel prices. They were getting paid upon delivery, but often they would struggle to shoulder the high gas and maintenance prices before they offloaded their shipments.

So Furrer had an idea. What if he could incorporate factoring into the trucking industry? Factory is the process in which a business sells its accounts receivable -- like invoices -- at a discount rate to a third party -- the factor -- in exchange for instant money to be used to continue business operations.

'What I do is get an invoice from a trucker for a load to be factored -- he wont have money for repairs or fuel,' Furrer explained to us. 'I take 5 per cent off of what the company pays him and he takes the rest.'

Today, Furrer manages a successful factoring firm which assists dozens of independent truckers across the country. The National Federation of Independent Business Young Entrepreneur Foundation awarded him a scholarship for his entrepreneurial excellence and altruistic attitude.

Plans for Next Year: Furrer plans to attend Stanford University in the fall, where he hopes to study bio-chemistry with a minor in business entrepreneurship.

'My end goal is to own a research lab,' he told us.

Samantha Garvey was homeless when she learned that she became a semi-finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search

High School: Brentwood High School, Long Island, NY

Why She's Impressive: This teen overcame homelessness to become a semi-finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search. Her project, about mussels, is called The Effects of the Physical Environment and Predators on Phenotypic Plasticity in Geukensia demissa.

Garvey studied the effects of the Asian shore crab--a non-indigenous predator to the Long Island shores that eats mussels--on the local mussel population. She spent hours collecting mussels from the north shore of Long Island, then brought them to a lab at Stony Brook University where she conducted experiments to find out if the mussels adapted to protect themselves from the Asian shore crabs. She found that the mussels that were in direct contact with crabs did in fact develop thicker shells as a form of resistance.

While Garvey was preoccupied with her mussels, her family was going through a difficult time. Her parents had lost their jobs and home, and so she and her family moved into a homeless shelter.

'Being homeless was really scary,' Garvey said on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. 'It was just the worst feeling in the world, feeling like your family is being torn apart. You're being tossed out on the street and no one cares.'

So Garvey turned to science to preoccupy herself.

'My science has always been really big for me and it's always helped me,' Garvey told Ellen. 'Being able to focus on something else is just my way out.'

And science did provide a way out. Garvey made it to the semi-finals in the Intel science competition and won national accolades--including from President Obama, who praised her for overcoming 'difficult circumstances.'

And though she didn't make it to the final round of the Intel competition, her luck has changed. She and her family are no longer homeless (they are living in subsidized housing), she was a guest at the State of the Union last year, and she won a $50,000 college scholarship from AT&T during an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Plans for Next Year: Garvey plans to attend Bowdoin College and has said that she hopes to become a marine biologist one day.

Alex Godin co-founded a startup called Dispatch

High School: Hastings High School, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY

Why He's Impressive: This tech-savvy teen co-founded a startup, Dispatch, which allows people to share and discuss their stuff in the cloud.

'My cofounders and I met at NYC coworking space New Work City and began work on Dispatch at the Techcrunch Disrupt Hackathon,' Godin wrote to us. 'Since then, we went through the Techstars accelerator program, raised some money and have grown the team to 7 people.'

In his spare time, Godin said that he likes to ride his bike, write code, and play ping pong.

Plans for Next Year: Godin was accepted to NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study, but he deferred for the next year to work on Dispatch full-time. Next fall, he said that he will decide whether college makes sense for him.

Mark Gurman is a blogger who cracked Apple's secrets

High School: Milken Community High School, L.A., CA

Why He Made This List: Gurman has been cracking Apple's secrets as a reporter and senior editor on the tech blog 9to5Mac. But he says that journalism is just a hobby for him.

'I feel more passionate for computer science and software development,' Gurman wrote to us.

He develops apps, and founded his own app company, Mark Gurman iOS App Development. One of the apps he created, called U.S. Presidents, teaches people about the history of American presidents.

'I made this because of my childhood fascination with America's leaders and history,' Gurman wrote. The app is still available on the app store.

Plans for Next Year: Gurman is planning to attend the University of Michigan this fall to study Informatics.

Nive Jayasekar created an app that scored her a coveted internship at Facebook

High School: Monta Vista High School, Cupertino, CA

Why She's Impressive: Nive Jayasekar made waves of late with her development of a mobile app for Home Depot that netted her $10,500 and an internship at Facebook through the Social-Loco conference hackathon event.

The app she designed is a project organiser for Home Depot that makes it easy for everyday consumers, professional builders, and gardeners to find materials for their projects. As a self-proclaimed artificial intelligence junkie, Jayasekar was excited to incorporate the software into her app. In terms of AI, the organiser allows users to pull data and ideas based on weather and season.

'It's an interaction between casual shoppers and professionals,' Jayasekar said. 'Consumers can find existing projects, which professionals get points for creating and building.'

After accepting her prize at the conference, Jayasekar had the opportunity to speak with Facebook director of mobile partnerships Emily White, who offered her a summer internship at the company.

'Nive is amazing and I'm going to be working for her someday,' White said at the conference.

While initially hesitant to commit to a summer position, Jayasekar accepted Facebook's offer this week and will join the social media giant this summer as a partner engineer intern focusing on mobile app development.

Plans for Next Year: Jayasekar will attend Carnegie Mellon University in the fall where she plans to study computer science. She also hopes to continue her development of artificial intelligence softwares.

Brian Kim won second prize in the Siemens Competition for his project on packing and covering geometric shapes

High School: Stuyvesant High School, New York, NY

Why He's Impressive: Kim won second prize--$50,000--in the 2011 Siemens Competition in maths, Science & Technology for his work in mathematics, where he examined packing and covering geometric shapes. In layman's terms: how to fit more stuff into a set space. His project is called Packing and Covering with Centrally Symmetric Disks.

'My project tries to establish a relationship between two different concepts, namely packing and covering,' Kim wrote to us in an email. 'Packing and covering are arrangements which you do to any geometric shape, but I chose to deal with centrally symmetric convex disks (you can think of an egg or oval).'

Kim explained that an everyday example of packing is baking cookies.

'We're trying to arrange the cookies on a tray so that they don't overlap yet we're trying to maximise the portion of the tray covered by the cookies,' he said.

When he's not calculating mathematics, Kim likes to play and listen to music; he's an avid guitar and piano player.

Plans for Next Year: Kim is planning to attend Columbia's School of Engineering in the fall, where he'll be studying applied mathematics and computer science. He also said that he plans to do more research during the upcoming summers.

Erin King sent her college acceptance letter into space

High School: Columbus High School, Columbus, GA

Why She's Impressive: MIT issued a challenge to the class of 2016: try to see if you can 'hack' your admission letters. The school did not, however, want any of their admitted students to break into a secure network, though there's little doubt that many of the gifted soon-to-be freshmen know how.

'At MIT, hacking is basically performing a prank or just doing something really cool and unexpected,' King explained to us.

For years King had been active in her high school's balloon launch research club. To boot, she could handle a HAM radio to relay the balloon's coordinates from a vehicle on the ground. When she received her cylindrical letter of acceptance and her 'hack' challenge note, King immediately knew what her trick would be: she was going to send her acceptance letter into space, or get as close as possible to the limits of our sky.

Her 'hack' was a massive success. The acceptance balloon -- equipped with a camera and tracking devices -- reached a maximum altitude of 17.2 miles and touched down safely near her projected landing site. 'The project ended up getting a lot more publicity than I anticipated,' she says.

King has reached the level of Extra -- the highest distinction -- in HAM radio operation. She's also been named the HAM Radio Newline's Young Ham of the Year for 2012.

Additionally, she's a certified scuba diver and a robotics enthusiast.

Plans for Next Year: King will attend MIT in the fall where she plans to study computer science and electrical engineering. She'll be taking her cat Maui with her to MIT, which has a number of cat-friendly dorms.

Dawn Loggins was abandoned by her parents and left homeless, but worked hard and gained a full scholarship to Harvard

High School: Burns High School, Lawndale, NC

Why She's Impressive: Loggins was abandoned by her parents, left homeless and penniless when she was just a teenager. Yet she rose above it all to become an exceptional student and inspirational person.

The summer before her senior year of high school, Loggins attended a prestigious summer program to study natural science. When she came home from her summer program, she found that her parents were gone.

'I never expected my parents to just, like, leave,' she told CNN.

When the community found out what had happened, they rallied around her. People in the community embraced Loggins, offering her food, shelter, and support.

Meanwhile, she studied diligently and was involved in the school's band club, photography club, cross-country team, and National honour Society. She also scrubbed floors as a janitor at Burns to earn extra money--all while making straight A's.

'I think what motivates me is the fact that when I was younger, I was able to look at all the bad choices: at the neglect and the drug abuse,' Loggins told CNN. 'And I was not going to have to ask myself, am I going to buy food this month or am I going to pay rent?'

Her efforts paid off: this remarkable young woman earned a full scholarship to her dream school: Harvard.

Plans for Next Year: Loggins is planning to attend Harvard University--on a full scholarship--in the fall.

Catherine Mitchell sells jewelry made by Ugandan women and sends the proceeds back to the women in Africa

High School: Guajome Park Academy Charter, Vista, CA

Why She's Impressive: During a 2009 school trip to Uganda, Catherine Mitchell met a little girl she'll never forget.

Jackie, a five-year-old impoverished girl from Uganda, approached Catherine holding her mother's jewelry. Jackie knew her mother would soon die of AIDS and she was frightened to join millions of African children in AIDS orphanages. Desperately, Jackie asked Mitchell if she could do anything with her dying mother's jewelry, to put food on the table if for only a few weeks.

'Jackie had the most lovely personality, but she knew she would be orphaned,' Mitchell told us.

Mitchell decided to help out Jackie in any way she could. She took the young girl's mother's jewelry home on a plane with her back to California and decided to incorporate it into a business. With her entrepreneurial zeal, she today owns Beauty 4 Life and sells jewelry made by Ugandan women, with most of the proceeds going directly back to them women themselves.

'I want to empower Ugandan women and allow them to sustain an income,' she said. I hope they can educate their children, keep them out of war, and sustain their families.'

Recently, Mitchell was named the National Federation of Independent Business Young Entrepreneur Foundation's 'Young Entrepreneur of the Year,' taking home a $10,000 scholarship in the process.

Plans for Next Year: Mitchell plans to attend Stanford in the fall, where she plans to study International Relations and Business.

Scott McCreery won American Idol while in high school

High School: Garner Magnet High School, Garner, NC

Why He's Impressive: McCreery is a talented singer-songwriter-guitarist who won the 10th season of American Idol in 2011--while he was in high school. Since then, he's come out with his own country album 'Clear as Day,' which received rave reviews.

McCreery won the best Breakthrough Video of the Year from the CMT Music Awards for his song 'The Trouble with Girls on June 6, 2012--just hours before he donned a cap and gown for his high school graduation.

Plans for Next Year: McCreery has said that he plans to attend North Carolina State University this fall.

Anthony Pennes is a farmhand who suffers from spina bifida--but that hasn't stopped him

High School: Highland High School, Highland, NY

Why He's Impressive: Barns are massively intricate structures designed to house livestock and crops. They're often constructed by teams of burly, fully-able individuals who move at a pace similar to the livestock they are building housing for.

Anthony Pennes is not able to move at this pace. The spina bifida he's been afflicted with since birth affects his movement and makes life difficult for him. None of this, however, has stopped Pennes from designing and building the barns on his family's farm.

Luckily for Pennes, the part of his spine that fused improperly is low on his back, which means that he isn't confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life like the many others who suffer from spina bifida are. Pennes needs all the mobility he can get. He's the chief farmhand on the farm, and he and his brother run the ship. They care for animals, install fences, and maintain the barns, among other duties.

Pennes is also an academic crusader of sorts. Pennes attended a small rural school, where AP and college courses are rare, and the ones that are offered were in jeopardy last year of being canceled due to low interest. To stop this, Pennes began a campaign to prove to students that they needed the courses, and that they could handle the workload.

'My friends and I went around and convinced some of the other students that it was the right class for them to take and that they would be able to handle the workload,' Pennes told us. 'When we heard that it was happening again for the next class, we also talked to the juniors and convinced them that the benefits of the class far outweigh the increased amount of effort required.'

Pennes works tirelessly, much more than the average high school student. In addition to his duties on the farm, he works at a bed and breakfast providing maintenance and landscaping. A testament to his ingenuity and determination: he's currently building a retaining wall made out of cedar trees for the inn.

Above all else, Pennes loves nature and being outside. 'It's peaceful and you get to see wildlife that most people nowadays don't,' he said.

Plans for Next Year: Pennes plans to attend MIT in the fall where he hopes to study mechanical science and economics. He's also planning to join the MIT riflery club, an engineering club, and a research organisation.

AnnaSophia Robb is an actress who will be the star in the upcoming TV show The Carrie Diaries, the prequel to Sex and the City

High School: Arrapahoe High School, Centennial, CO

Why She's Impressive: Robb started acting when she was just nine years old. (You may recognise her from her roles in Because of Winn-Dixie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Soul Surfer.) Between projects, she jets home to play her other role: high school student in Colorado.

Her next project? Playing the young Carrie in The Carrie Diaries, the prequel to Sex & The City, which is set to air on CW around January 2013.

Plans for Next Year: Robb told Lucky magazine that she was accepted to Stanford University, but she decided to defer for a year to film The Carrie Diaries and focus on acting.

Anshul Samar created Elementeo, a chemistry card game that helps students learn chemistry

High School: Bellarmine College Preparatory, San Jose, CA

Why He's Impressive: At 18 years old, Ansul Samar is already a vet of the Silicon Valley tech scene. He first hosted venture capitalists at his house when he was in 7th grade and his educational gaming company Alchemist Empire, Inc. has only grown since. Their biggest release has been Elementeo -- a chemistry card game that helps parents and students learn science together without the textbooks.

'The Elementeo Chemistry Card Game helps kids explore science and chemistry through stories and games,' Samar told us. 'In Elementeo, elements have their own personality and interact with each other using their properties and oxidation states -- Oxygen Life Giver rusts metals, Copper Cyclops shocks element cards around him, and Helium Genie airlifts element cards in balloons. Throughout the game, players create compounds, play with elements, and learn chemistry as they go along.'

Samar got the idea for Elementeo while playing card games at a younger age. He loved the games, but his parents didn't find them to be educational. Samar wanted to find a bridge between education and leisure.

'I thought it would be cool to combine both worlds. I knew we could mix fun and learning,' he said.

Samar enjoys playing the drums, the keyboard, and the guitar, but he finds himself increasingly occupied with the world of tech startups. Just recently he guided Elementeo onto the iPhone and iPad.

Plans for Next Year: He plans to attend Stanford in the fall.

Georgia Soares is a Brazilian-born writer who has learned to master writing in English

Tracy Sorto is the first person in her family to go to college--and she's going to MIT

High School: Prospect Hill Academy, Cambridge, MA

Why She's Impressive: Tracy Sorto is an unapologetic maths and science nut. She admits she's never built a robot or solved a labyrinthian proof, but she doesn't let this stop her from loving the nuts and bolts of the mathematical approach.

'Every maths problem is an adventure--every method is like a different path you can take to get to the answer,' Sorto told us. 'Science is just as interesting, but in a different way. I love feeling like I truly understand something, and science is just that--trying to understand the universe.'

Her passion has paid off, too. She recently received a Rensselaer Medal for outstanding performance in maths and science. Her parents couldn't be more proud, especially because Sorto -- daughter to Salvadorean immigrants -- is the family's first high school graduate.

Her father had to leave school after the 6th grade to help support his family and her mother was forced to do the same after completing 9th grade. Sorto knew no college graduates when she embarked on her academic career.

'Being a first-generation high school graduate has been humbling, and has really made me appreciate the opportunities given to me,' she says. 'It has made me appreciate my parents more, because even though we've had some tough times, I wouldn't have been able to achieve my dreams without them.'

To give back, Sorto has traveled to Guatemala to teach English to impoverished children. There, she learned all of her students' name and gained immense satisfaction from seeing them improve and grow in such a short period of time.

Plans for Next Year: She plans to attend MIT in the fall where she plans to study biological engineering and brain and cognitive sciences. Eventually she'd like to join Doctors Without Borders or Engineers Without Borders.

Marissa Stephens is one of the top young female mathematicians in the country who's determined to get more women interested in maths

High School: North Central High School, Indianapolis, IN

Why She's Impressive: Stephens is one of the top young female mathematicians in the country, scoring in the 99th percentile of women who took the difficult AIME maths exam. She has also taken 11 APs and won the AP Siemens Award for Indiana.

'I began participating in maths competitions since elementary school maths bowl and have done as many as I could since,' Stephens wrote to us in an email. 'I really enjoy the AIME since it is a problem-solving oriented maths competition, and the answers always seem to take a little creativity to solve.'

Stephens said that her love of maths started in summer maths camp in Terre Haute when she was just 8 years old. At this maths camp, numbers and problems were turned into creative and entertaining activities, like watermelon seed spitting contests and water balloon fights.

In these summers at maths camp, Stephens said that there were an equal number of boys and girls. But as she got older, she realised that she was often the only girl in maths class.

'At the end of my 8th grade year, I looked around the room, and realised I was the only girl out of 20 or so students,' Stephens wrote. 'Sadly, this gross under representation of girls tends to be the norm in extra-curricular maths rather than the exception. In the higher maths exams and competitions--such as the AIME, USAMO, HMMT, and ARML--almost all of the participants and top scorers are male. As a female interested in maths and science, I find the lack of female participation appalling.'

She said that she does her best to try to serve as a role model and inspire younger students--particularly younger female students--to pursue maths and science. That's what led her to start MathMania, a free student-taught one-week maths camp for middle school students, with her sister and two friends.

'MathMania has enabled me to pass on my love of maths to the next generation of male and female students alike,' Stephens said.

When she's not solving maths problems, she's probably outside rock-climbing or running. She was on the varsity cross-country and track teams at her high school and she has competed in various rock-climbing competitions, including the International Federation of Sport Climbing's Junior World Climbing Competition in France, where she placed 8th in her category.

Plans for Next Year: Marissa is planning to attend MIT in the fall.

Andrey Sushko created a tiny motor that is extremely powerful--and he won second prize from the Intel Foundation for it

High School: Hanford High School, Richland, WA

Why He's Impressive: Sushko won second Prize--a $75,000 scholarship--from the Intel Foundation for his revolutionary work in micro-robotics. He built and designed a tiny motor (only 7 millimeters in diameter), which uses the surface tension of water to turn its shaft.

'Conventional motors use a flow of electric current to create magnetic fields that turn the rotor,' Sushko wrote to us in an email. 'This design works very well for large motors, but becomes increasingly inefficient as the motors become smaller. The goal of this project was to develop and demonstrate a new motor design that may be able to greatly outperform conventional motors at smaller scales.'

So he figured out a way to create a tiny motor that is extremely powerful. He said that 'this design may prove to be very useful for microscopic robotic devices leading to a variety of medical or industrial applications.'

Sushko is an avid sailor with hundreds of hours of experience on the water. He also loves working on 'almost anything in 3D,' including radio-controlled model boats. It was this interest in model boats that led him to discover this new way of looking at micro-robotics.

'Over the years, most of the research related skills that I learned came as a direct extension of my model boating hobby,' Sushko wrote. 'I learned how to program computers, work with electronics and microcontrollers, design and build electromechanical systems, seek out and correct any problems and understand exactly how things work.'

'This project grew out of observations that I made while working on some of my models,' Susko continued. 'I found that my smaller ships tended to stick to the sides of my bath (or sink, or teacup, depending on their size). I attributed this effect to the surface tension of water--the same force that drives my motor design.'

Sushko was born in Russia, raised in England, and has been living in the U.S. for the last three years. He said that he has never spent more than five years in the same home. He attributes his love of science to his parents, who are both scientists.

Plans for Next Year: Sushko plans to attend Stanford University in the fall, where he will study engineering physics.

Nithin Tumma won first prize in the Intel Science Talent Search for his research on breast cancer

High School: Port Huron Northern High School, Fort Gratiot, MI

Why He's Impressive Tumma won first place (and a $100,000 scholarship) in the Intel Science Talent Search for his ground-breaking research on breast cancer.

He analysed the molecular mechanisms in cancer cells and found that by inhibiting certain proteins, medical personnel may be able to slow the growth of cancer cells and decrease their malignancy. This could lead to more effective and less toxic breast cancer treatments.

Plans for Next Year: Tumma plans to attend Harvard in the fall.

High School: Germantown Friends School, Philadelphia, PA

Why He's Impressive: When Ari Weinstein was 7 years old, he learned HTML. At the age of 11, he placed an operating system onto his iPod Mini and played Gameboy games on it. When he was 13, he hacked into the operating system of his iPod touch -- his first official 'jailbreak,' a term which refers to dismantling the limits of an operating system's limits and gaining access to it.

Weinstein's software intrusion wasn't committed out of spiteful rage against Apple, nor was it intended to be a boastful display of teenage force. Weinstein only wanted to allow products -- products which he holds a tremendous amount of respect for -- to reach their full capabilities.

'On the iPod touch, Apple had a great display with a touch screen and internet, but they had no apps,' Weinstein, now 18, told us. 'I figured there should be an easier way.'

When he was only 14, Weinstein joined a then small group of teenagers and 20-somethings interested in reverse engineering. They called themselves the 'Chronic Dev Team,' according to The Wall Street Journal.

When the iPhone came out, Ari's efforts expanded and his Chronic Dev Team joined forces with another jailbreaking circle called the 'iPhone Dev Team.' This group was comprised of older members and placed added emphasis on security and private communication, reports The Journal. Both groups jailbroke the iPhone in 2009.

Weinstein continues to consort with the Dev team to this day, but his efforts recently have been less controversial. He focuses on programs, businesses, and websites he wants to start.

And he's learning. He claims to have constructed a program for backing up websites when he was younger, only to lose it as he and his team realised they were too inexperienced in marketing and finance. Now, a company called CodeGuard has turned a similar idea into a multi-million dollar firm. The same went with a few other ideas, but Weinstein didn't let any misgivings stop his ambition.

He's currently working for a startup in California that aims to expand wireless internet access. Weinstein always keeps operating system improvements on his mind. Every so often, he gets back with the Chronic Dev folks. Just like the first time he jailbroke an Apple product, he's confident that his intrusions are for the best.

'I think Apple places artificial limits on devices,' he said. 'Jailbreaking is a way of unlimiting what you can do with technology.'

Plans for Next Year: Weinstein plans to attend MIT in the fall where he will study electrical engineering and computer science. He hopes to keep interning and learning how to better implement his ideas.

Dalia Wolfson is a talented published writer who won the Norman Mailer High School Writing Award

High School: Hunter College High School, New York, NY

Why She's Impressive: Wolfson is a talented published writer who won the 2011 Norman Mailer High School Writing Award for her creative nonfiction piece 'Parquet Dictionary.' This piece chronicles what she describes as a 'bizarre period' in her life, when she competed in Latin dance competitions with her twin brother as her partner from 1st to 5th grade.

'Parquet Dictionary was my first foray into laboriously long nonfiction,' Wolfson wrote to us. 'With this piece I truly endeavoured to explore -- at length and unabashedly -- a subject in my life that intrigued me. I found it to be a piece that helped me explore the generational and creative consequences of growing up as an American with a Soviet expat heritage hanging overhead.'

Wolfson loves to write and is constantly seeking out stories, finding inspiration in the everyday scenes around her and in the streets of New York City.

'There are stories worth telling,' Wolfson wrote to us. 'There is a beauty to life, an internal poetry that needs to be chronicled. As I mature, I realise that I want my writing to be self-conscious, commenting on this world and giving insight to any reader.'

Plans for Next Year: Wolfson was accepted to Yale, but is deferring for a year to participate in a gap year program at Nishmat, the Jeane Schottenstein centre for Advanced Torah Study for Women, where she will be studying everything from the Bible to the Babylonian Talmud and more.

Angela Zhang created a nanoparticle system that may cure cancer--and she won first prize for it in the Siemens Competition

High School: Monta Vista High School, Cupertino, CA

Why She's Impressive: She could potentially help cure cancer.

Zhang won the grand prize--a $100,000 scholarship--in the 2011 Siemens Competition in maths, Science & Technology for her research on a nanoparticle system that she likens to a Swiss army knife because of its many functions: it is capable of targeting tumors, eradicating cancer cells, and monitoring treatment responses all at the same time. Her project is called Design of Image-guided, Photo-thermal Controlled Drug Releasing Multifunctional Nanosystem for the Treatment of Cancer Stem Cells.

'At the heart of my nanosystem is the drug delivery capabilities,' Angela wrote to us in an email. 'My nanoparticle was designed to be preloaded with a cancer drug that would be released directly and selectively at the tumour site to eradicate cancer cells. The greatest advantage that a drug delivery system has over many current cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, which tends to attack cancer and healthy cells, is minimization of toxicity to non malignant/healthy cells.'

She said that the hope of the project was to 'personalise cancer treatment' by improving treatment efficacy while improving the patient's quality of life during cancer treatment.

Zhang said that it took years to come up with the idea, in which she read countless research articles and attended numerous scientific talks.

'It was a great feeling to find that my project worked,' she wrote.

In her free time, she kayaks, hikes, and reads as much as she can. She said that one of the items on her bucket list is to read every novel on the Modern Library's 100 Best Novels list.

'I adore Fitzgerald,' she said. 'In fact, after winning the competition, I begged my mum if I could buy a first edition copy of The Great Gatsby.'

Plans for Next Year: Zhang plans to attend Harvard in the fall.

These schools are filled with impressive young minds

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