Aidan Aird, the 15-year-old Behind Developing Innovations
Aidan Aird is a truly remarkable teenager. At only age 15 he has started a non-profit organization in Ontario, Developing Innovations, which is dedicated to inspiring, celebrating and promoting STEM education. He balances this with his educational responsibilities, such as maintaining a high GPA and participating in extracurricular events such as the Canada Wide Science Fair. Among those recognized by Developing Innovations are ASTech featured students, Edwina Liu and Che-Min Lee. We reached out to Aidan to ask about his achievements:
Can you please describe what Developing Innovations does?
Developing Innovations is a not-for-profit organization that’s mission is to inspire, celebrate and promote STEM students. A place where students can share their knowledge, inspire and encourage the next generation of STEM leaders, in hopes of making the world a better place.
What inspired you to start Developing Innovations?
After participating in school, regional and national science fairs since I was 12, I realized there were lots of amazing kids out there working hard, creating and discovering amazing things. I was meeting elementary and high school students that were developing innovative methods to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges. Some of them were making huge strides in cures for cancer and malaria, developing aides for the blind and better methods to build prosthesis. Others were coming up with realistic methods to improve the environment, new innovative ways to produce bio-fuels and many other mind boggling new innovative ideas they researched and tested to help make the world a better place. I am proud to call many of these brilliant young minds my friends and I often spoke about all the great things they were doing to anyone that would listen, many of them adults that had some sort of connection to STEM. The problem was that almost none of them had heard of the incredible things these friends of mine were doing, except for the ones that had a connection to the science fair community. This didn’t seem right, all these hardworking young scientists and engineers out there that are trying to make a positive difference in the world and nobody new about them except maybe a few of the grand prize winners that received some news coverage. With this in mind, I decided to create a way to celebrate their amazing accomplishments, which resulted in the formation of the not-for-profit organization Developing Innovations.
What are your criteria when choosing STEM innovators?
The criteria for choosing who is going to be featured is very simple, we will feature any student that has shown a passion for science, technology, engineering or math and has gone up and above standard school requirements through hard work and determination, in order to achieve remarkable results in the fields of STEM. All of these amazing students we feature have won prestigous awards in some type of formal STEM competition, with many of them winning at the national and international level.
When creating your organization, who helped you along the way in terms of funding or any other form of support?
I have to say that number one is the encouragement and support I have received from my parents and my younger sister. They have been by my side all the way along with the 30 plus student volunteers that come out and help me inspire all the young curious minds we come in contact with while doing our STEM outreach.
As far as funding goes, it has been a challenge. The materials to run a high quality workshop can be expensive and the exotic insects and especially the fossils used for our STEM Outreach Program can easily cost over $1000 for one item and we currently have approximately 40 insects and 30 fossils in our collection.
Recently, the great people at New Eyes Old Skies, a small local store that specializes in astronomy and science, generously donated a large quantity of science related items that will be excellent for our free science workshops after hearing of the work we were doing to help inspire young students. These experts in astronomy also offered to help us develop our new outreach program on space, which is very exciting and I can’t wait to get started.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in starting and running the organization?
Many of the challenges that I have faced along the way are very similar to a lot of not-for-profit organizations, which include getting the word out about what we are trying to achieve, why it is important and funding and support for our cause. For us as an organization we are trying to achieve a number of goals. One is to convey how important it is to give recognition and support to many of young students that are working hard to make a difference in the world in the fields of STEM throughout the world.
A personal challenge that affects the running of the organization is keeping my grades above 95% so I can qualify for a university scholarship. I have managed to achieve this goal so far, but it is definitely challenging with all the time and effort needed in order for me to achieve the goals of the organization.
When it comes to STEM what areas are you most passionate about?
I enjoy learning, promoting and inspiring young students in all the STEM fields, but if I had to pick one that I am most passionate about that would have to be engineering. That can be seen in the personal projects I have been working on and the courses I have been taking outside of school in my spare time. I have completed 11 courses in SolidWorks, a professional CAD drawing program from Javelin Technologies, over the last 1 ½ years and have been attending U of T’s Saturday Engineering courses the last 2 years.
My passion for engineering can also be seen in the last 3 years that I have qualified for the CWSF (Canada Wide Science Fair) where I have entered an engineering project.
In 2012 when I was 12 years old, I built, tested and entered a portable totally functional 3m long Subsonic Open-Circuit Wind Tunnel that is capable of performing both quantitative tests and qualitative studies on objects to determine their aerodynamic properties by producing meaningful data.
In 2013, my project was to prove that my Advanced Aerodynamic Aircraft Wing System that I designed and built using the CAD program SolidWorks, would produce better aerodynamic properties than the best present day wing system used by the Boeing 737. I tested the AAA Wing System using my Subsonic Open-Circuit Wind Tunnel and SolidWorks Computational Fluid Dynamic Software.
In 2014, my project was the Turbo-Eco Cookstove Plus which was designed to be a highly efficient, modular, multifunctional stove; it cooks food, purifies water and charges small electronic devices such as a mobile phone or LED light, all at the same time. The prime motivator for designing this high efficiency cook stove, which uses less fuel and emits less harmful emissions than traditional fires or stoves, was to improve living conditions in developing countries.
And my entry for this year’s science fair is going to be another engineering project that focuses on helping improve the lives of people living in developing countries.
What are your goals for the future?
I have a number of short term and long term goals I want to achieve. At this time education wise, I want to continue keeping my GPA above 95% so it will give me the best opportunity to receive a university scholarship. Presently, my wish list for university if I leave Canada and receive a scholarship would include MIT. I also hope to showcase more STEM students and share more STEM knowledge through Developing Innovation’s Facebook and Twitter feeds. I would also like to offer more outreach events and camps, but expand it to communities that might not normally be exposed to these types of STEM programs. I often think that when we are at outreach we may be inspiring the person who might hold the cure to cancer or other rare diseases and by being there and sharing our knowledge and positive energy they may think that STEM is their calling and begin their STEM journey.
Do you have any final thoughts?
I would love everyone to get involved and help spread the word about Developing Innovations by liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter. Hopefully, together we can inspire more children to feel smart in science and math and ignite a passion for STEM that they will continue their entire lives.