Why a Young Genius and His 5-hole Probe Will Make You Feel Better About the World

by Greg Prestemon

Why a Young Genius and His 5-hole Probe Will Make You Feel Better About the World | Greg Prestemon | Pulse | LinkedIn

These days, if you watch the news (or spend any time on social media), it can be tough to find inspiration.

That’s why one of my favorite things to do every year is to recognize a group of bright, ambitious young people who are going to change St. Charles County—and the world.

Each year the Partners group within the St. Charles EDC Business and Community Partners recognizes the brightest STEM students in our county’s schools, as nominated by their teachers and mentors.

Every time we do this, the following thoughts occur to me:

  1. What was I doing with myself in high school? These kids are so bright, so focused, and so future- oriented that I can’t help but look back at young Greg Prestemon and feel woefully inadequate.
  2. As much as these students deserve recognition, the parents and teachers shaping these young people deserve a hand, too. It’s not easy raising—or teaching—young people, so the folks in these students’ lives should make a YouTube video to show the rest of us how to do it right.
  3. These young people have clearly not gotten the message about a bleak future. They believe in a brighter tomorrow and believe they can have a role in creating a better world. Rather than dismissing young people as shallow millennials (or whatever we are supposed to call the generation after millennials), maybe we should look to them for inspiration.
  4. All of us who call St. Charles County home are incredibly fortunate to have a group of forward-looking business leaders championing STEM education, particularly Randy Shilling, the chair of the Partners Education Committee. Randy and the Partners efforts to advance STEM education over the past 15 years have helped create a culture within our area schools that understands the importance of science and technology for our local economy.

Those are the thoughts that occur to me every year we hand out these awards, but this year I was especially happy to see these kids come to the front of the room and receive recognition from our community’s business leaders and elected officials.

The conflict and negativity that’s become part of our everyday life can, at minimum, be emotionally and spiritually draining. Some days—most days—I dread turning on the TV or going online.

Then I met Joe, a student from Fort Zumwalt North High School. Joe spent his summer studying “The Aerodynamic Analysis of a Polysonic 5-hole Probe Under Subsonic Conditions.”

I don’t have any idea what that means. None. In fact, when I first heard the term “Polysonic 5-hole Probe,” I thought Joe might be trolling us in a way that was too smart for me to understand.

He’s not trolling us though.

Joe is going to change the world.

It’s not just Joe. The students we recognized this year are going to do great work. The world will be better off for their contributions—I’m 100% convinced of that.

Ally, another award winner, is working on ways to help farmers check grain bins more accurately and safely. Literally, because of Ally’s work, one day fewer farmers might get hurt or even die in the act of just doing their jobs (a pretty important job that feeds the rest of us).

Personally, Ally’s project is incredibly meaningful to me, since nearly everyone on my dad’s side are Iowa farmers (a tradition I’m very proud of). I remember my dad working on the farm, and how dangerous that job can be.

The next time you’re surrounded by the world’s negativity, think of Joe, Ally, and the 16 other incredibly bright minds we recognized last week—and the thousands of young people in other communities spending their spare time inventing new things that will make our lives better, safer, and brighter.

When you do, you’ll realize there is every reason to be optimistic about the future.

And as someone who’s called this community home for 25 years, I’m proud to say the better tomorrow we all hope for is being built in science classrooms right here, in St. Charles County.

Greg Prestemon is President and CEO of the St. Charles County EDC Business and Community Partners.