September 12, 2013

Dancer Brian Youngblut Sews Modest Dresses for his Dance partners

I recently completed another Prom-style dress for my daughter to wear to my son's wedding.  It takes a lot of time and skill to make a formal dress.  Formals are usually made with expensive, slippery fabric that usually frays all over the place.  Sometimes there are layers of fabrics-- sheers over base fabrics.  And these dresses are always lined with another slippery fabric.  Adding any embellishments usually requires hours with magnifying glasses in good light.  It takes skill and patience to tackle such a project.

Imagine my surprise to learn that a young man of 25 years has over 40 such formal dresses in his portfolio!  And he's not even attending a fashion design or art college!  He saw a need for these formal dresses and he filled it.

After Brian Youngblut took a ballroom dance class at Brigham Young University he was hooked.  As he progressed to competitions, he saw the need for flashy dresses for his partner.  To win, a couple needs to stand out from the pack of other dancers, as well as dance well.  Brian explained, "Dance is an aesthetic sport.  Judges will look at things like how your feet are turned and how you're moving your core, so you want a costume that accentuates that." 

Additionally, Brian understood the need for modest dresses.  Ballroom dance competition is known for it's revealing dresses, but Brian is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons.  One of the teachings of the church is to dress modestly.  Many of the dresses on the market would be inappropriate for Brian's dance partners.  And having a designer come up with a modest design and make it would be terribly expensive!  These are students after all!

Brian's solution:  he would make his partner's dresses!  He inherited an old sewing machine from sister-in-law and took some leotards and fashioned up his first outfit.  He learned the basics of sewing from his mom as he was growing up, so he'd call her when he hit a snag. Soon he was designing dresses and making them up with his own patterns (another amazing advanced sewing skill.  Believe me.)  When he found a dress form on Craigslist, he excitedly snapped it up.  His excitement shows in his blog post:
So my treasured find of the week is this singer adjustable dress form brand new on Craigslist for DIRTY CHEAP! With said dress form, and fabric from LA's Fashion District, I was able to whip up a sweet design for Cait's new dress in no time! So with this gem I have full confidence that I can start making most of our costumes, which I've been wanting to venture into for a while. Now I don't have to just draw up designs I can actually make them right in front of me...I've found that newspaper is great for making patterns, and any questions that you may have can be easily answered between Google and YouTube...gotta love modern technology.  (Make it Count, May 5, 2011)

Normally you don't hear of Business majors getting excited about buying used dress forms.  But Brian isn't your average student.  He's gone on to sew formalwear for clients in Beverly Hills, California, selling one dress for $3500.  That's a great start in a career in business or clothing design by any standards.  

Brian didn't worry what others would think of him when he decided to sew dresses.  He just dusted off his machine and his sewing skills, researched what he didn't know, called his mom for help and learned from his experiences.  Each dress probably got better as his skills improved.  His dress form probably did make the process easier, especially to get the fitting perfect.  He probably had a few disasters, but he didn't let them discourage him.  He kept designing and sewing.  He had big ideas and didn't flinch.  Even his mom wondered how he'd make some of his designs a reality.  She said, "When I saw some of his designs, I thought, 'how did you get that out of your head and onto a dress?'"

Brian is a great example of fearlessness and determination, qualities that will make Brian a success in any field.


Make it count-- Brian's blog found at

Smith, Sara D.  Sewing with the Stars.  BYU Today magazine, Summer 2013, pg. 16.

Watch a cool video interview with Brian at

Photo courtesy of BYU Today

Teen Jack Andraka Develops Inexpensive Test for Pancreatic Cancer for Science Fair Project

Recently two of my kids announced that they were preparing for another Science Fair.  My high-schooler was looking for a good project idea while my middle-schooler had already figured that out, and was pairing up with partners.  They know how hard it is to come up with an original idea for Science Fair-- unless you are obsessed with one or another tangent of Science.  After all, judges have seen countless volcanic explosions with baking powder and vinegar, styrofoam solar systems, and the like.  It seems like the kid with passion about a subject, passion with enough force to propel the student on a true journey to understand a process; that kid is the one to really make a great Science Fair project.  More- that is the kid who might make a real discovery as well.

Jack Andraka had just seen some cool carbon nanotubes his Civil Engineer dad brought home.  They intrigued Jack so much that he read up extensively on them.  Jack said, "They have these amazing properties.  They are stronger than steel. They conduct electricity better than copper.”  Teachers thought he was daydreaming when he was half-listening in class when he was really chewing on what he was learning.  His Biology teacher confiscated a magazine Jack was reading because she could tell he wasn't paying attention.  She was surprised to see the magazine he was reading was Science, and he was reading about the uses of Nanotubes.

A few weeks earlier, a close family friend died of Pancreatic cancer.  This must have been in his mind as he learned more about those cool nanotubes.  Jack realized that the nanotubes could be used to detect an early marker of Pancreatic cancer, an overabundance of the protein Mesothelin in the blood.  Early detection of Pancreatic cancer changes the odds considerably in the treatment and cure of this deadly cancer. 

Jack wrote up his idea and sent it off to over 200 researchers.  Only one responded-- a researcher named Dr. Anirban Miatra who was working at John Hopkins University nearby.  Dr. Miatra liked the idea and gave Jack a chance to pursue this research.  Meeting in his lab after school for several months, Jack perfected the system and it worked!

Jack tweaked this system to use paper as the testing strip, not nanotubes.  This makes his test inexpensive (3 cents per test).  Initial evidence shows that his test is 90% accurate and only takes 5 minutes and a fraction of a drop of blood to administer.  It is also accurate at testing for Ovarian and Lung cancers as well, since they also throw off the same Mesothelin protein as an early marker.

Along with over $100,000 in grant and prize money, this must have been a great Science Fair project!  Jack earned the distinction of inventing a revolutionary life-saving test, all while he was still barely a teenager.  Now when he submits research ideas to researchers, I'm convinced they will listen.

Dr. Miatra thinks Jack is destined for greatness.  He said, "You're going to read about him a lot in the years to come... What I tell my lab is, 'Think of Thomas Edison and the light bulb.' This kid is the Edison of our times. There are going to be a lot of light bulbs coming from him."

What makes Jack special?  He does have the advantage of having a passion for Science and a family that fosters that.   Jack's mom is a Anesthesiologist, and the family admits to being science nerds. Jack's mom said, "... we're not a super-athletic family. We don't go to much football or baseball.  Instead we have a million [science] magazines [and] sit around the table and talk about how people came up with their ideas and what we would do differently."
Jack's brother Luke won nearly $100,000 a few years ago for another Science Fair project involving acid mine drainage as pollution.  That shows that the family supports and encourages deeper thinking about these school assignments.  

Passion and willingness to work hard to pursue these new ideas may be the key to Jacks' future successes.  And truly these qualities are key for all successes.  Don't give up, even when you get 199 rejection notices.  You only need one person to believe in you.


Dansby, Donisha. "Teen Genius Develops Cancer Test." National Geographic 10 April 2013. Web:
Tucker, Abigail. "Jack Andraka, the Teen Prodigy of Pancreatic Cancer ." Smithsonian December 2012. Web:
Wikipedia. 7 Sept 2013. Web: 12 Sept 2013.

Photo courtesy of Benjamin Quinto, found at Wikipedia.