Some call it vision, some call it creativity, but it often takes a great idea—and a whole lot of hard work—to bring about an INNOVATION.

Competition can be fierce when it comes to game-changing technology. Drones can deliver your online orders or make your movies breathtaking. Some Virtual Reality (VR) headsets will just blow your mind. And what’s going to be the next big thing in social media? Some big companies and highly successful entrepreneurs are doing their best to be cutting edge.

But like our ever-expanding universe, our science and tech advances also are accelerating, creating all sorts of opportunities for new and seemingly crazy ideas. So follow your passions, pursue some of the ideas rattling around in that creative mind of yours, and you too might become a great innovator!

Here are a few recent game-changing advances in science and technology that you might like…

3D Printers Make Hands for Kids

3D printers can now print prostheses for children and adults. A lot of schools, maker spaces and even a few libraries have ’em. In fact you or one of your friends might have a 3D printer. They may not be fast, but they enable you to turn your designs on the computer into reality, printing artwork or objects in different colors and sizes. 

They can even be used to produce parts for manufacturing!

People who have lost hands, arms, feet or legs can be fitted with prosthetics—artificial appendages that can help them pick up things, walk, run or just look more like they want. But traditional prosthetics are expensive and can cost thousands of dollars.

This can be a real obstacle for families if a child needs a prosthesis because the kid will likely outgrow it and need another. So Rahul Jayaraman, a junior at BASIS Chandler, set out to use 3D printing technology, some existing designs and help from his classmates to make 30 prosthetic hands to be given away to kids who need them!

Tempe manufacturer PADT has new industrial 3D printers to print the parts for these completely mechanical hands. Rahul raised funds to pay for the stuff that couldn’t be printed, like screws, wires and string to put the parts together and enable the child to use their muscles to make the hand grasp objects.

A few months back, Rahul and his classmates met on campus for a Saturday to put the parts together. The hands are to be donated to the Hand Challenge, which helps kids get the prosthetics they need!

Reusable Rockets for Spaceflights

What was once an ongoing competition between NASA and the Russian space program, now has several more players. And the new space race involves some technology leaders who have built companies to take people and payloads into space!

One of the most expensive parts of space travel is the rockets. And if a company is going to succeed, it needs to find some big ways to keep costs down. Since the rockets that

PROPEL people or payloads into space can cost tens of millions of dollars, being able to land and readily reuse a rocket instead of having it burn up upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere is quite a big deal.

Two billionaires—Jeff Bezos (founder and CEO of Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer) and Elon Musk (founder of PayPal, founder and CEO of Tesla Motors, co-founder and chairman of SolarCity) also have space companies. Bezos’ company is called Blue Origin and wants to compete in space tourism. Musk’s company is SpaceX, which puts satellites into space and runs supply missions to the International Space Station.

Both Blue Origin and SpaceX have successfully landed reusable rockets onto platforms! The rockets have thrusters and flaps to guide them back down vertically, and both land using legs that fold out and lock in place.

Cancer Vaccines and Engineered Immune Cells

These are exciting times when it comes to the fight against cancer. Researchers have already come up with preventative vaccines to help your body fight cancer-causing viruses like the human papillomavirus or the hepatitis B virus.

These work by stimulating your body to produce antibodies that bind to specifically targeted microbes to keep them from infecting you.

The other approved VACCINE helps a person who has metastatic prostate cancer to fight the disease by activating a person’s T cells, which are like little soldiers trained to find and destroy those cancer cells.

But what if researchers could develop a cancer vaccine that could help protect a person against several types of cancer?

Recent early trials conducted in Germany are promising! This type of treatment vaccine activates a person’s immune system (T cells) against related types of cancerous tumors, no matter where they are in the body. The vaccine has been tested on mice with cancer tumors and on three cancer patients.

When injected, the new vaccine introduces a cancer-specific antigen, a substance that triggers the patient’s immune system to produce antibodies that “tag” the cancer cells to be attacked and killed by T cells.

After successful tests on mice with specific cancer tumors, the vaccine was tested on only three human patients, and the results look promising so far.

Genetic engineering is also helping us to make big strides in the fight against cancer. Researchers have genetically altered white blood cells to find and destroy leukemia, types of cancer of a person’s blood cells.

Some cancer patients’ bodies aren’t producing enough T cells or other immune cells. So these special white blood cells were created in a lab through a gene-editing technique called TALENs, which enables scientists to cut out and fix the genetic information (DNA) in living cells, programming certain cells, like T cells, to seek out and destroy cancer cells.

Get inspired, be creative, and do the work to invent the next big thing!     

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