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Teen inventors say: There’s got to be a better way

Fictional inventors are often seen toiling away in big, fancy labs. Tony Stark’s workshop surrounds him with holographic screens. Jimmy Neutron stashes gadgets in a huge underground hideout. Willy Wonka has an entire factory. But real-world innovation doesn’t require such elaborate sets. Just ask the finalists of this year’s Regeneron Science Talent Search.

This annual event is the nation’s premier science and math competition for high-school seniors. It’s run by Society for Science. (Society for Science also publishes Science News for Students.) Each year, 40 finalists compete for more than $1.8 million in prizes — and show off their own feats of science and engineering.

The 2022 lineup includes several young inventors who have turned their basements, bathrooms and garages into workshops. The teens’ homemade tech could improve prostheses, earthquake-warning systems and air travel.

When only about eight years old, Ben became fascinated by mind-controlled prostheses. He saw a documentary on these artificial limbs, which are controlled by devices implanted in the brain. “I was really amazed,” recalls the now 17-year-old senior at the Potomac School in McLean, Va. “But it was also pretty alarming.” Implanting the electrodes required risky brain surgery. And those artificial limbs cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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