Chicago Teen Anthony Halmon Earns Full Ride to Cornell & Journey to White House Science Fair

Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 12.20.58 PMObama congratulates Anthony Halmon (left) and other students at White House Science Fair. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(The Root) — When President Obama announced the first-ever White House Science Fair back in 2009, he said, “If you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House. Well, if you’re a young person and you’ve produced the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too.”

Nineteen-year-old Chicago native Anthony Halmon was among the 100 students from more than 40 states who received that recognition at a daylong celebration of the power and potential of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education at the fourth-annual event on Monday.

But in Halmon’s case, the fair also marked a celebration of what he calls his “transition” — from a life in Chicago that could have gone the way of the worst headlines about the plight of young black men in the city, to participation in the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship program, to a handshake from the president and a full ride to Cornell University, where he’ll go in the fall.

The Root caught up with Halmon and learned that the creation that earned him a spot at the fair — a pacifier with a built-in thermometer and soothing gel — is far from the young father’s only victory.

The Root: What inspired your invention?

Anthony Halmon: My invention is called the Thermofier. It’s a pacifier with a built-in thermometer. What inspired my business was seeing kids around me being so sick and seeing parents spend so much on their kids’ health without really knowing why they were sick. But really, it was that I have a daughter, who’s 3. She used to always get sick when the seasons would change. In the NFTE program, my teacher got me thinking about what I could create to meet her needs. At first I thought [the Thermofier] was impossible to make, but NFTE got me working with some engineers to create it.

TR: When did you become interested in science?

AH: I would say I had a little interest in science when I started an environmental science class my sophomore year, but NFTE showed me a way to take my strongest subject, which is math, and use it in the science field as well. That really made me want to become interested in science.

TR: Your biography says you had a difficult childhood growing up in Chicago. How did you overcome that?

AH: My freshman year, my father was in jail, so I used to go around with my cousins a lot and get involved with fighting, and things that weren’t really me, but I felt like it was the only way to live. I was living, not dreaming. Just existing. My grades were dropping.

In October 2010, my father passed away, and I felt like there was no purpose in life, but I had a realization. I had to sit down and talk to myself, and I talked to my pastor. He nurtured me and raised me like I was his own son. That was my transition. Ever since then, my grades started improving. I started saying, I can do better and I can be better, because in the end anything that happens is because of the choices I made.

TR: What was the highlight of participating in the White House Science Fair?

AH: When they first told me, I didn’t believe it, because I never pictured myself actually being at the White House. It was just amazing because I realized there are more people like me out there, people my age and even younger.

TR: Did President Obama say anything that stood out to you today?

AH: He just said hello, and we shook hands, but the eloquence of his speech that he spoke today — I’m pretty sure it reached everybody in that room. He was saying we’re basically the chosen generation that will help shape the future with our ideas … and maybe we can use science to help create the change we want to see.

article by Jenée Desmond-Harris via

4 thoughts on “Chicago Teen Anthony Halmon Earns Full Ride to Cornell & Journey to White House Science Fair”

  1. Great Job! This story really made my day. There are cynics that perpetuate the belief that because we may be of a different generation that we just don’t understand how extremely difficult it is to overcome life’s unfair obstacles. As a 52 year old African American woman, I sincerely do understand. It is wonderful to read a story about an African American male who entered an academic domain which is not highly represented by disenfranchised people, (People of Color and the Economically Disadvantaged-All Races). He overcame a many obstacles to get there.
    One major obstacle is simply pulling himself out of the ocean of human weights and drags that always exist in one’s life. Their sole purpose on planet earth is to try to hold him back. At 19, he has definetely become the Master of his fate and the Captain of his soul. What I would like to see created is a blog or an encouragement network that supports college students especially those students who enter academic disciplines that are not highly represented with disenfranchised populations. God has your back, Anthony!

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, booooooooking. That is a wonderful idea you have for a blog/encouragement network. If something like that doesn’t already exist, perhaps you can start it. GBN started in the same way – when one person pointed out to us that there was no one place on the web to find only positive black news. It costs nothing to start a facebook page and start reaching out – that’s how we started three years ago. If you don’t do it, we hope you talking about it inspires others to do so.

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