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Suvi Laitinen and Lena Maula win Millennium Youth Prize by outlining a solution to Alzheimer disease treatment

The competing innovators, aged 14-18, rose to the challenge of creating innovations in health technology and sustainable energy.
Millennium Youth Prize winner / Photo by Anni Hanén

The winners of the first Millennium Youth Prize and recipients of the €5 000 first prize are Suvi Laitinen from Olari upper secondary school and Lena Maula from Ressu upper secondary school. Second place was awarded to Emma Siekkinen, Minka Multanen and Helen With from Lauttasaari upper secondary school, and third place was awarded to Dariya Sivovolenko from Tampereen lyseo high school.

The competition saw the school students attempting to meet the challenges set by four Aalto University professors in the fields of health technology and sustainable energy. Entries could take the form of a piece of writing, a video, or a prototype.

The winners of the Millennium Youth Prize, organised by Aalto University and TAF – Technology Academy Finland, was announced on 24 November at the Junction hackathon event hosted by Aalto University. The winners were selected by panel of experts from Aalto University and TAF. Entries were judged on their scientific contribution, imagination, creativity, innovation, and feasibility.

The Chair of the panel, Aalto University President Ilkka Niemelä commented: ‘The winning entry sought a solution to a really significant ant challenging social problem. It combines scientific depth and a holistic perception of the problem beautifully. The impact of the solution and the different aspects of the matter were considered in this work in a very mature way.’

The Millennium Youth Prize seeks ways of improving quality of life on our planet through innovation and encourages young people to be inspired by innovative technologies. The template for the competition is the international Millennium Technology Prize.

The winning teams’ solutions

First prize €5 000: Suvi Laitinen and Lena Maula (age 16, Olari upper secondary school & Ressu upper secondary school)
The inter-school team put forward a new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. According to this pair of innovators, their solution would be to increase the lactate concentration of the brain. This approach could lead to more powerful and targeted drug delivery and slow down the degradation of neurones typically affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

Second prize €3 000: Emma Siekkinen, Minka Multanen and Helen Wicht (age 16, Lauttasaari Secondary School, International Business High School)
The team wanted to find ways of recycling the lithium used in household batteries. They proposed that the batteries could first be crushed and then placed in oil, enabling the lighter metals float to the surface. This allows the lithium particles to be separated. According to the team’s vision, the lithium collected in this way would be reused in new batteries made to incorporate energy-saving solar panels.

Third prize €2 000: Dariya Sivolenko (age 16, Tampereen lyseon lukio high school)
Dariya Sivolenko presented her Human Controlled Evolution (HCE) method, whereby radiation is used to modify the DNA in a cell into the desired form. This method could teach lymphocytes, for example, to recognise cancer cells and encourage the body’s immune system to fight them. According to Dariya, HCE could also be used to teach bacteria to recognise harmful cells and then deliver drugs to the appropriate site in the body.

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