First-Ever National STEM Festival Features 150 Student Inventions

From medical patents to mobile apps, 150 of the most ‘brilliant young minds’ will present their projects that address solutions to key global issues.

Utah high schooler Alex Antonio Hernandez Juarez, 17, demonstrating his project “Translating ASL Through Machine Learning” for the 2024 National STEM Festival. (EXPLR)

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Growing up with a deaf cousin, Utah high schooler Alex Antonio Hernandez Juarez saw the difficulties she had accomplishing everyday tasks in school and other places that weren’t always willing to accommodate her needs.

Moved by his cousin’s plight, Juarez designed a tool to help the deaf community — a device that uses a camera to translate sign language into a written and spoken form.

Utah high schooler Alex Antonio Hernandez Juarez

Through the first-ever National STEM Festival this Saturday, April 13, Juarez will be one of 150 student innovators to present their inventions and research projects that address solutions to critical global issues.

The festival will showcase student innovators from numerous nationwide competitions, including EXPLR’s National STEM Challenge where more than 2,500 students in grades 6-12 conceived and submitted STEM projects across six categories: Environmental Stewardship, Future Foods, Health & Medicine, Powering the Planet, Tech for Good and Space Innovation.

“All of these kids are so cool and have such incredible projects that it’s going to be bananas,” Kari Byron, co-founder of EXPLR and director of the festival, told The 74.

EXPLR co-founder Kari Byron

Byron said the festival idea grew out of a conversation she had with the U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

Byron, who previously hosted the Obama administration’s White House Science Fair with Bill Nye, pitched a plan to design a larger version of the former event.

“I looked at him and said ‘What if we built it for you? What if we make it bigger and better than it has ever been before,’” Byron said. “So it’s not a continuation of the White House Science Fair — it’s a completely new festival that’s going to be so much bigger because we want a national conversation about STEM 365 days a year.”

Jenny Buccos, co-founder and chief executive officer of EXPLR, said the festival is a great way for school leaders and decision makers to learn more about “what kids are interested in and what we might not be teaching in schools.”

EXPLR co-founder and chief executive officer Jenny Buccos

“How are they learning to make patent pending medical devices? How are they learning about protecting their IP? Where is this happening, and if it’s not in the traditional classroom, how do we bridge that gap,” Buccos told The 74.

Students like Juarez, 17, are excited to have the platform to present projects centered around what they are passionate about.

“This opportunity is confirmation that people care about the hearing impaired and deaf…and is a great way for me to continue to educate more people,” Juarez told The 74.

Buccos said the public has the opportunity to meet the students and see their inventions through more than 100 virtual and in-person events in Washington, DC.

“If you are in desperate need of inspiration and hope for the future, come to the events…this is the opportunity to meet some of the most brilliant young minds working in the country,” Buccos said.

“Everybody says kids are the future,” said Buccos, “but these kids are literally solving problems now.”

To check out the National STEM Festival this Saturday, the public must register online to secure their spot.

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