Since its inception in 1992, more than 360,000 students from across the United States and Canada have participated in ExploraVision. We caught up with some of our most notable winners over the past several years to learn how they’re continuing to innovate the world around them. Past winners will be regularly added to this section.
Click each question below to reveal our past winners’ answers.
Roshni (Devchand) Bhimani (1993)
My team created PAL: The Friend of the Future.
Following high school graduation in 2002, I attended Georgia Tech and studied Biomedical Engineering. I worked for a few years at a healthcare consulting firm in Atlanta before returning to grad school at Johns Hopkins University for my Master of Public Health. I now lead research and strategic planning projects at Hager Sharp, a communications and social marketing firm dedicated to creating campaigns for organizations committed to improving health, advancing education, transforming our communities, and making meaningful change in the world.
Participating in ExploraVision was such a formative experience in grade school and certainly played a role in shaping how I thought about problem solving and applying STEM in various real-world scenarios. I would advise teachers to encourage even those students who don't think STEM is "for them" to apply what skills and strengths they do have to their team, since the four members of our very successful team have gone on to do amazing things applying what we learned (not just in STEM careers): an artist; a start-up co-founder, a public health professional, and a PhD mathematician!
Maryellen Sun (1993)
My team created Prosthetics: Rebuilding the Body in the Future.
I attended Harvard College and received an AB in biology in 1997 and an MD from Harvard Medical School in 2002. I subsequently completed Residency in Diagnostic Radiology at BIDMC in Boston in 2007. After an Abdominal Imaging Fellowship also at BIDMC, I joined the faculty at the medical center where I have practiced as an abdominal radiologist and have served as the Director of Genitourinary Imaging and Ultrasound.
ExploraVision was one of the most positive forces that encouraged me to study science and medicine. It’s a fantastic way to help kids experience the excitement of innovation and really develop their sense of possibility. It is also a wonderful team building experience. If you are lucky enough to be part of a winning team, it will be the experience of a lifetime! But even if you do not win, I believe that this project will be remembered as a highlight of the year both by you and your students.
Anand Sarwate (1997)
My team created The Artificial Vision Restoration System (AVReS) - Eye Of The Future.
I attended undergrad at MIT, where I majored in Electrical Engineering and Mathematics. After graduation, I went straight to graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley, where I finished my Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. I’ve always been drawn to the mathematical end of things, so I completed a special concentration there in communication, computation, and statistics.
I worked on a variety of topics in grad school, which made me want to continue doing basic research. Much like ExploraVision, basic engineering research involves thinking about what problems we might want to solve in the future and how we can advance the knowledge or technology that we have now to tackle those problems. I then went south to the University of California, San Diego, where I was a postdoctoral researcher, and from there to a research assistant professor position at the Toyota Technological Institute in Chicago, which is a philanthropically endowed academic computer science institute located on the University of Chicago campus.
I most recently joined Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, as a tenure-track assistant professor in electrical and computer engineering. My research is still about communication, computation, and statistics. I try to develop models to understand how communication and exchanging information in social networks can enable learning, how uncertainty can impact the reliability of communication, how statistical analyses can be done safely on sensitive data like medical records, and to efficiently discover hidden structures in complex data sets.
ExploraVision teaches students all the ingredients of becoming a successful researcher: how to find an important problem in the world, identify a promising approach for solving it, think through the steps to make that happen, and most importantly, communicate the need, approach, and benefits to others. Science and engineering are social processes, and communication is a crucial part of that. ExploraVision is not just for future scientists or inventors; one of my teammates is in business/finance and the other is a clinical psychologist. I think that ExploraVision is a great way to get students excited about the possibilities of technology so they can integrate that process of communication with learning about the technology.
Bill Schlotter (1998)
My team created SMAART: Shape Memory Alloys in Airplanes Reduce Turbulence.
I spent nine years after high school continuing my education—beginning with an undergraduate degree in Engineering Physics at University of Michigan, followed by a PhD in Applied Physics at Stanford University. Throughout my formal education, I found that ExploraVision developed an incredible toolbox for answering important question and effectively communicating results.
My research career crossed many branches of science from Chemistry to Materials Physics to Optics. But a common theme has been using x-rays to better understand the structure and function of the atoms that make up the world around us. I’ve been very fortunate to spend the majority of the last eighteen years on the frontier of x-ray science. I’ve studied magnets using holograms formed with x-rays to generate images so small they would be dwarfed by a human hair. Recently, I’ve used flashes of x-rays as short as a millionth of a nanosecond to capture these magnets in the “act” of flipping their poles. But just like my ExploraVision project, I’ve done all of this in teams—often much larger than four members.
My advice to teachers is to see ExploraVision as an opportunity to apply the skills learned across subjects. More than any subject I studied in high school, ExploraVision developed a skill set that I use everyday in my life as a scientist. It helped me to understand that regardless of what I discover, it is only available to others if I communicate it effectively—primary through writing. It also taught me that working with others requires communication and compromise, but can produce something much greater than the sum of the capabilities of the individual team members.
Kallie (Harrier) Garza (1999)
My team created Allerscan.
I participated in ExploraVision in 1999 as a fourth grader, and have had a busy life since then! During my senior year of high school I took dual credit classes at a local community college, and was able to complete my Associate of Arts degree in Visual Communication in 2008.
After graduating I moved to Phoenix, Arizona where I worked for a major technology company, as a mobile device technician. I then moved onto a career in healthcare IT with a local healthcare system and helped the hospital launch its electronic medical records system.
While working full time, I returned to school to pursue my bachelor’s degree and graduated in 2014 with a degree in Life Sciences from Arizona State University. I discovered my passion for healthcare, and specifically optometry while at the university. While working as an optometric technician, I gained hands-on experience in the field of optometry.
My Life Sciences degree was put to use when I worked in the histology department of an oncology lab. Every day, I worked with tissue samples of patients with a cancer diagnosis, and performed tests which helped pathologists determine the proper treatment plan for them. I am currently pursing my dream of becoming a doctor of optometry and am a second year optometry student with an anticipated graduation date of May 2019.
The competition taught me to think about what is possible and to pursue the things that make life better for society. It is my goal to provide the gift of sight to those in need through both my training as an optometrist, my passion for learning, and the love of technology, which I gained while participating in ExploraVision.
My experience with ExploraVision opened my eyes to the potential impact science and technology can have on peoples’ lives. I believe that ExploraVision is a wonderful way to reach your students and ignite their interest in science and technology. With so much emphasis on literacy and writing, at the elementary level, science sometimes gets pushed aside. The inquiry method of this project taught me how to question, hypothesize, think, research, investigate and test my theory. It also taught me how to work cooperatively with others to reach a common goal and most importantly, think outside of the box.
Sujoy Phookan (2004)
My team created Neuro Enhancing Restoring Offline Nerves (N.E.U.R.O.N.).
Since participating in the ExploraVision science competition in 8th grade, I continued to pursue my interests in the sciences. I attended the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Humanities for high school where I was actively involved in Academic SuperBowl and Chemistry Olympiad. I had the opportunity to spend my high school summers performing chemistry research at a local university.
I matriculated into the combined 7-year BS/MD Physician-Scientist Program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Albany Medical College in New York. Throughout undergraduate and medical school I participated in biomedical research including several summers working in a neuroscience lab studying rat models of Parkinson's disease. This project culminated in several presentations at scientific meetings around the country.
I am now an internal medical resident at Emory University in Atlanta with the hopes of pursuing a Cardiology fellowship. My goal is to remain in academic medicine as a clinician-researcher.
Do not underestimate the value that your mentorship can provide to your students. My middle school science teacher, Mrs. Schenkel, ignited my passion for science by encouraging yearly participation in the science fair and ExploraVision. Whenever you have students that show in interest in STEM, actively foster their interest by providing extra-curricular opportunities such as ExploraVision.
Saara-Anne Azizi (2007)
My team created Passenger Tire Waste Heat Recovery System.
I’ve been working toward an MD/PhD at the University of Chicago, leading to a career at the intersection of chemical biology and medicine. I credit ExploraVision with showing me how an understanding and application of physical principles can be used to address complex issues.
Teachers will love how the competition encourages participants to attack the grand challenges of our time with creativity and enthusiasm, since courage and vision are at the root of scientific discovery!
Shirlee Wohl (2008)
My team created CONNECT: Creation of New Nerve-Ending Connection Technologies.
I earned my B.S. in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale University, and then moved to Boston to pursue a Ph.D. in Systems Biology at Harvard University. I am now in the fourth year of my Ph.D. program, and I use genomic approaches to study how viruses spread during outbreaks. I have had the opportunity to work on several exciting projects over the last few years, including analyzing data from the recent Ebola virus outbreak and answering similar questions about Zika virus.
My high school chemistry teacher introduced ExploraVision as a class assignment, but gave us a lot of freedom in deciding our topic. Through our project we learned about the scientific process and how to research scientific findings — and, more importantly, we were really excited about our topic! I would definitely advise teachers to allow for that flexibility when possible.
Vaidhy Murti (2009)
My team created CHANGE: Counteracting HIV/AIDS through New Gene Enhancement.
After I participated in ExploraVision in 10th grade, I went on to Princeton University (Class of 2015) where I studied Computer Science in the Engineering school. At Princeton, I created a social app called Friendsy to help connect students. After a successful pilot, we are now at 1,700 schools and have facilitated over one million connections between college students.
Carl Kreitzberg (2009)
My team created S.M.A.R.T. Paint.
I graduated from Yale University where I majored in history and played on the Yale Bulldogs football team. I started my career at EIU Canback, a management consulting firm based in Cambridge, MA that leverages predictive analytics to assist large clients with projects in emerging markets all over the world. In other words, we use math to help people figure out how developing countries will change in the coming years. I find myself asking the same questions that I did while I was working on my ExploraVision project: What does the world look like today? What did it once to look like? What will it look like tomorrow? And how can we prepare for these changes? In a way, ExploraVision laid the foundation for my business acumen well before I ever set foot in an office.
The wonderful thing about the ExploraVision competition is that it asks its participants to dream big. However, the teachers (coaches) must also be prepared to answer the timeless question "when will I ever use this in the real world?" My own coach, Mr. Michael Lampert, knew how to strike this balance perfectly through encouragement and healthy skepticism.
Coaches should also communicate how advances in fields like artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and genome editing will need young pioneers. Overall, I believe most students can excel in STEM—all they need is a good teacher dedicated to their future success.
Sreya Atluri (2012)
My team created Scar-Aid: Chemical Mediator Bandage.
As a Robertson Scholar, I've been able to pursue my interests at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University, and am currently double-majoring in B.S. Business Administration and Economics, with a minor in Entrepreneurship. I was also elected as a participant for the 2014 TOMODACHI Toshiba Science and Technology Leadership Academy and was very fortunate to return as a Teaching Assistant for the 2016 Academy – these experiences gave me the phenomenal opportunity to analyze the importance of taking political, economic, and social dimensions of the community into consideration. Since then, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have a variety of experiences! I’ve always been drawn to the idea of making a difference in the community, and currently serve as the CEO and Founder of Creating Awareness in Research and Education and a former Executive Director for Growth and Inspiration through Volunteering and Education, both non-profit organizations striving to address educational disparities across varying socioeconomic dimensions.
Integrating ExploraVision to a classroom is incredibly important as it helps students explore applications of STEM across a variety of disciplines, ranging from information sciences to healthcare to business. The genuine sense of enthusiasm and interest in students when given the opportunity to build the future and solve problems brightens up a classroom, and also encourages students to keep their drive and desire to give back to the world.
Eley NG (2012)
My team created LANAPT (Ligand Attached Nanoshells Assisting Protothermal Therapy).
I participated in a variety of projects in both research and industry, particularly in stretchable electronics for wearable devices. I spent two years in research, investigating stretchability of thin films for bio-integrated devices as well as materials and mechanisms for soft robotics. One project has led to a publication.
Outside of research, I've interned at Sandia National Labs, where I learned about computational methods for analyzing mechanical structures, as well as at Intel Corporation, where I had the opportunity to work on mechanical design and reliability for a virtual reality headset and other prototypes. Overall, my experiences have enabled me to pursue a career with the ultimate goal of seamlessly integrating robotic and electronic devices with humans.
ExploraVision is a great way to introduce students to engineering and research. Up until high school, mentorship in the form of structure and planning from teachers and others is critical so as to prevent negative impressions of the scientific method. In high school, the form of mentorship ultimately morphs into helping students seek the resources they need to complete their projects, such as connecting them with graduate students or university resources.
Nikhil Buduma (2013)
My team created Immunotargeted DNA Nanostructures.
After managing a drug discovery laboratory at a local state university and participating in ExploraVision as a high school student, I realized that healthcare had been largely untouched by software innovations. Full of inspiration, I graduated from MIT in two years and then co-founded Remedy—an accessible, tech-forward medical practice.
The ExploraVision competition is an extraordinary opportunity to inspire intellectual curiosity and creativity in your students. My most valuable advice would be to discover what makes your students tick. Help them find a topic they become completely obsessed with, and they will undoubtedly surprise you with how far they can go.
Karena Yan (2015)
My team created the PACS wrap.
ExploraVision showed me that even though I am still a high school student, I can tackle challenging problems and achieve amazing feats in science and engineering. As a result, I've been motivated to enroll in more STEM-related programs and competitions that previously would have seemed beyond my ability.
While many students may be intrinsically interested in the STEM fields, they require a dynamic and supportive learning environment in order to further that interest. Instead of lecturing the class on Newton's Laws, have the students work on a lab investigation that demonstrates pertinent physics concepts.