Eighth grader Audrey Kim already has designed an X-ray table for the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach. She’s devised a way to save bees using artificial intelligence and machine learning. And she’s won the President’s Environmental Youth Award, for which she was given a private tour of the White House and U.S. Capitol.
“She does stuff that most 13-year-olds wouldn’t do,” says her dad, Richard Kim, a financial adviser with J.P. Morgan. “My wife and I always say we envy Audrey because she’s living a life we could never dream of.”
It all started when she wrote a letter to the president about helping seals when she was just 6. He wrote back – and soon she was on ABC7 News, then KIIS FM, where host Ryan Seacrest donated $1,000 to help her protect marine mammals.
Audrey launched her own website and raised over $7,000 for the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, earning its Junior Philanthropist of the Year Award – at age 8.
A junior innovator of the year
Twice, the Society for Science has named Audrey one of America’s top 300 junior innovators – most notably for inventing a device to protect honeybees, which won first place at the Orange County Science and Engineering Fair.
Called “BeeHappy,” it monitors the temperature and humidity inside a beehive while detecting intruders with an AI-programmed camera.
“I feel lucky to live in Irvine,” says the Sierra Vista Middle School eighth grader. “I’ve had so many amazing teachers here.”
She vividly remembers the day her sixth grade science teacher asked if anyone in class wanted to participate in the Irvine Unified School District’s science fair. Every hand went up.
“I feel lucky to live in Irvine. I’ve had so many amazing teachers here. My teachers have always helped me pursue my dreams. They’ve always said, ‘We’ll support you.’ ” – Audrey Kim
That year, at age 11, she designed a piezoelectric soccer field and thermoelectric bench to take first place – a title she’s now won three times.
A well-rounded education
Audrey’s experience at IUSD fostered a love not only for science, but for music. Last year, she played saxophone at Carnegie Hall with Sierra Vista’s symphonic band.
“Hearing all those Irvine kids at Carnegie Hall brought tears to our eyes,” says Audrey’s mom, Krystyna.
Audrey sees it as another example of her Irvine education, which has created a lifelong love of learning.
“My teachers have always helped me pursue my dreams,” she says. “They’ve always said, ‘We’ll support you.’ ”
In four years, after she graduates high school, she hopes to attend Yale or MIT and become a marine biologist or environmental engineer.
“My love for science comes from my desire to make our world a better place,” she says. “I’m not going to stand by and watch. I want to do something.”