Watching the upcoming generation of innovators and entrepreneurs is a CES pastime. And when those entrepreneurs are still in high school it gets even more thrilling. The Young Innovators to Watch scholarship at CES 2018 was sponsored by Lenovo. It awarded five high school  student inventors for creating original STEM projects tackling some of society’s toughest problems. Winners and their parents get flown to Vegas for the show, have an awards ceremony and then are treated to a special tour of the show floor concentrating on introducing them to Eureka Park, accelerators, incubators and what their futures might hold,  

What’s striking about these students is their passion for their projects, their incredible articulateness and their “normalness” even though they are deeply ensconced in the geek-o-sphere. We wanted you to meet a few of them.

Emily Kiehl, a 17 year old high school student from Ohio, was born with amblyopia and spent her childhood detesting the “patching” treatment used to strengthen the weak eye and correct the condition. She and her class-partner, Radu Vasilescu, were inspired to create Project Purple, a VR application that uses simple, fun exercises as an alternative amblyopia treatment. The team is currently recruiting participants for a case study. They hope to use the data they collect for a research paper that will help establish Project Purple as an effective medical treatment option.

See the ring that Utkarsh Tandon created when he was just sixteen years old?  OneRing is a simple, wearable device for people with Parkinson’s disease. The ring uses machine learning to identify all forms of Parkinson’s movement patterns and the severity of the movement, generating daily smart reports with time stamped analytics and sending them directly to the patient’s physician. Tandon worked with specialized Parkinson’s centers to distribute rings to patients, and he was also named a semi-finalist in the 2018 Regeneron Science Talent Search. Today you’ll find him as an intern in MIT as an intern working on in Psychiatry Neuroimaging.

Emma Yang, who became a Young Innovators scholar at age twelve, continues to make waves with her award winning app, Timeless. She’s been named in numerous top ten awards, featured in a docuseries on STEM creators and more. After years of struggling to communicate with her Alzheimer’s-suffering grandmother in Hong Kong, Emma—who lives in New York City with her parents—created the app to help people with dementia communicate and connect with family members. The platform helps patients to remember important information, and uses facial recognition along with AI to identify friends and relatives. Yang has continued to develop Timeless, working with the support of experts on dementia and facial recognition. Now fourteen, Emma has a business plan, a TED talk, and is currently crowdfunding for an official launch. “Anyone at any age can effect change if they are driven by a purpose,” she said, “Solve the problems you see around you. Solve the problems that matter to you.”

These four entrepreneurs, all still under twenty, are just a small subset of the Young Innovators who are making technology to help others, especially older adults or those with disabilities. One of the very first winners now runs a 17 person company, MaidBot,  devoted to industrial scale vacuuming robots. Benjamin Liu, one of this year’s winners, created an RNA kit to allow easy, affordable tests for early cancer detection, and  Varun Shenoy, was awarded for Theia, an app that uses AI to help patients with surgical wounds keep on the lookout for potential infection.

It’s still early days for these brilliant young people, and the only way to know how far they’ll go and how much they can accomplish is to keep watching.

To watch the CES 2018 awards video. http://younginnovatorstowatch.com/