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Young scientist of the year's invention could clean water for 1.1 billion

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    Deepika Kurup, winner of the title of "America's Top Young Scientist," $25,000 and a trip from Discovery Student Adventures. (Discovery Education/3M)

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    Braeden Benedict, winner of the 2011 contest, pases the torch to Kurup. (Discovery Education/3M)

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    The finalists gather for an awards ceremony to celebrate the winners of the 2012 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. (Discovery Education/3M)

A New Hampshire 14 year old has won America’s Top Young Scientist prize for her innovative clean water system, which has great potential for people suffering natural disasters and those living in war zones.

Ninth grader Deepika Kurup’s very green technology could help the more than 1.1 billion people throughout the world without access to clean water. Her prototype takes solar energy and uses it to disinfect contaminated water in an innovative, cost effective, and sustainable system.

Every year since 2008, Discovery Education and 3M hold an annual competition where young American innovators develop solutions to everyday problems, competing not just for the title but also for cash prizes.

Kurup’s technology won her the prestigious title of America’s Top Young Scientist 2012 -- as well as a whopping $25,000 and a trip from Discovery Student Adventures.

The ten young finalists competed in a live competition at the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, in October.

Each finalist had worked with a 3M scientist mentor who provided advice as the young scientists took their ideas from a theoretical concept through to a working prototype over the summer.

'Kurup and the rest of this year’s finalists have shown incredibly innovative thinking.'

- Discovery Education CEO Bill Goodwyn

At the final competition, finalists not only presented their prototypes to a panel of judges but had to tackle two other challenges on the spot. In the first test, the young scientists had to take multiple 3M technologies and combine them to create a new solution. In the second challenge, the finalists had to use science and engineering to build a machine designed to turn on a light bulb.

Scientific knowledge, creativity and 3M technology use were all evaluated by the judges.

“The Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge is a perfect example of the importance for companies to join forces to ignite students’ natural curiosity in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects and encourage them to pursue STEM careers in the future," Discovery Education CEO Bill Goodwyn noted. "Kurup and the rest of this year’s finalists have shown incredibly innovative thinking, and I am certain that they will be prepared to compete in today’s global economy and create a bright future for our country.”

In addition to first place, second and fourth places also went to young female scientists.

The second, third and fourth place winners each received a $1,000 cash prize and a trip from Discovery Student Adventures to Costa Rica.

Second place went to Minnesotan student Carolyn Jons for her innovative packaging method that inhibits mold growth and helps keep food fresh longer. Third place went to Californian student Anin Sayana for his innovation that selectively targets chemotherapy-resistant cancer stem cells, and fourth prize to Pennsylvanian student Anishaa Sivakumar for her innovation that would help treat patients suffering from macular degeneration.

Young scientists in fifth through eighth grades have until April 23 to enter this year's competition and a chance at the $25,000 prize for their innovations. To enter, students must create a one- to two-minute video describing a new innovation or solution that could solve or impact an everyday problem.

Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at wargames@foxnews.com or follow her on Twitter @Allison_Barrie.