SPRING HILL — When people ask Cameron Gant, a junior at Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School, what he did over his summer vacation, he can tell them that he met some of the nation's greatest scientific minds.
It happened at the Congress of Future Science and Technology Leaders in Lowell, Mass.
And for the 16-year-old filmmaker and inventor, the honor was a long time coming. As a child he had a passion for science and technology — one that inspired him to create, learn and discover.
"I always liked learning how things work and how they are created," said Gant, a Wesley Chapel resident.
Also an environmentalist and solar energy proponent, Gant conceptualized an invention called the Smoke Taker, a device that would eliminate excess exhaust fumes produced by automobiles.
"I remember that, as a young kid, he made a digestive system out of balloons and took it to school as a science project," said his dad, Brian Gant.
In high school, Gant followed up on his interests by studying subjects such as chemistry and biology.
"Cameron has a positive attitude and is a hard worker," said Caitlin Schecker, a Bishop McLaughlin science teacher. "That type of student is the best to have in class."
And he is currently at work on his debut feature film, serving as the director, editor and producer of Lifeline, the fictional chronicle of a young woman dealing with the death of her boyfriend.
The subject of grief and loss is a personal one for Gant, who lost his mother, Darlene, in 2015 after a battle with breast cancer. And through his scientific pursuits, he hopes to help find a cure for the devastating disease.
"We have to find a way to make the disease more isolated," he said. "We have to find a way to make patients feel better. And we have to find a cure."
Gant was nominated by John C. Mather, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in physics and science and science director of the National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists, to attend the Congress of Future Science and Technology Leaders, which was held from June 29 to July 1. At the conference, he heard guest speakers that included Nobel Prize and National Medal of Science winners, deans and professors at Ivy League schools, inventors, government science and technology officers, and science industry executives.
As a filmmaker, Gant was particularly interested to hear the words of a speaker who did visual effects work on the film Gravity. He also enjoyed a robotics demonstration. And he was inspired to learn about new scientific advances in the fight against cancer.
"I learned about what college classes I should take to further my studies of filmmaking and science," he said. "I made a lot of friends.
"I learned to expand my interests," Gant said. "I learned to do more."
In the eyes of his instructors at Bishop McLaughlin, Gant is destined to do much more in the not-too-distant future.
"He is a diligent student who believes in follow-through," chemistry teacher Jane Schuster said. "He can do anything."