Science Whiz Takes L.A.


Will Makinen with his science fair poster

A trip to Los Angeles usually includes beaches and celebrities, but junior Will Makinen’s experience was full of scientists and robots. After earning Grand Prize at the school and national science fair, Makinen attended the international competition last week in Los Angeles, California.


“It was downtown Los Angeles, in an LA Convention Center,” Makinen said. “It was around the financial district, with a lot of tall buildings.”


Due to the academic part of the trip, Makinen didn’t have much free time to explore.


“It was fun getting called up, but it was a lot of work to present for 7 hours straight, so your voice starts to hurt,” he said. “I mean, I really liked presenting, so it was fun.”


Makinen was devoted to his advanced project–he worked on it on-and-off for 11 months. The work intensified right before the school science fair, when he worked for 20+ hours a week. An average science fair project doesn’t require that much attention, but Makinen set his sights high.


3D printers are able to create a 3D object from plastic material, but if the pattern glitches and one wrong step is made, the printer will continue to print and ruin the entire object. Makinen attempted to correct this problem with his project.


“Currently, 3D printers themselves don’t have any way of error correcting so it doesn’t know if it makes a mistake or not,” he said. “The idea of my project is to have the 3D printer detect errors, so that if it happens, you can correct it right away and salvage the print early and correct it without wasting the print,” said Makinen.


The competitors had a full schedule, with two days devoted to setting up the projects, one to judging, and one to public viewing of the projects and the awards. In Makinen’s category, he came in 4th place and received $500 as his prize.


“I wanted more, but i’ll take the $500,” he said. “I was here 2 years ago and I didn’t win anything so it was nice to have something to take away from it.”


Even students who didn’t win anything had the experience of a lifetime due to an unexpected perk.


“The coolest part was that they rented out Universal Studios for a night, so it was just us there and all the food was free,” Makinen said. “We could just walk in and take, like, water bottles for free.”


Makinen wants to go into electrical engineering in college, but right now he is enjoying the scientific opportunities of high school.


“Mostly people just do the science fair to get the A and be done with it, but for people who actually do well on it, it can have a real world application,” he said. “Mine can be used for large manufacturing environments.”


Makinen has good advice for future science fair participants.


“You need to think about what will help everyone and find something that could potentially be expanded on and you have an impact on the world,” he said. “When judges look at a project, the main thing they look for is real world applications.”


Makinen advocates for wider participation in the science fair.


“I really like the science fair and people should definitely do it! It is a good way for people to get hands on experience.”