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CHICAGO — At Gems World Academy, the challenges facing the world are being addressed one young mind at a time.

All weekend, a few dozen of the brightest minds from Chicago-area schools have been planning, debating and building solutions to several of the world`s top issues, like: poverty, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, and how to make most of life on land.

Among them, a  future engineer from Skinner West, eighth grader Allen Falayi is building a way to clean up plastics from the ocean. Just a few feet away, Tobi Morrow and Izzy Oberman work together on a solution to a greenhouse gases released in animal food production.

Mentored by volunteers from National Geographic, Carnegie Mellon, and others, the students get one shot at a prize worth $7,500 and the chance to compete in the national challenge at MIT.

It’s all done in the hope that today’s lessons in sustainability will fuel the world`s leaders of tomorrow.