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USA Today -- Robert Downey Jr. came face-to-face with a stage full of true innovators on Friday.

As his billionaire inventor character Tony Stark andIron Man 3stormed through the U.S. box office, Downey surprised 12 finalists onstage at the "Iron Man 3: Inventor and Innovator Fair" at Hollywood's El Capitan Theater.

The finalists in the nationwide competition looked amazed and shocked when Downey made the unannounced visit onstage, hands in the air giving the victory sign, following the awards ceremony. Students had flown in from around the country to accept the innovation honors for their work.

Downey congratulated the students, ranging from sixth to ninth grade.

"I hate to say this, but I'm humbled," Downey said from the stage. "I congratulate all of you."

"I am very pleased to be introducing the future design team of the next Tony Stark Iron Man suit," Downey added.

Iron Man 3was on par to make $60 million on its opening Friday following a stellar international opening last week. But Downey put the spotlight on the award-winning students.

Anin Sayana from Cupertino, Calif., was just one of the award-winning entries with an impressive title: "A Novel Configuration of Carbon Nanotubes to Inhibit ABCG2 and Selectively Target Chemotherapy-Resistant Cancer Stem Cells."

"Iron Man is breaking records all over the world, but these are our big stars today," Downey said.

"This whole series is about someone who invents something out of necessity. It's nice entertainment," he added. "But I am just so pleased to be part of the youth of America representing the things that are going to be keeping the planet sustainable and push technology and innovation forward for years to come."

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