The play instinct is something that everyone is born with. From a young age we want to explore, create, and have fun. However, some people become very good at honing this skill, at playing and fiddling so creatively that they develop revolutionary technologies. Sometimes these discoveries can come later in life, but many times it is younger individuals, who have held onto their playful spirit, who innovate in extraordinary ways and in the process, play a role in inventing the future.
High Schoolers Inventing The Future
Here are just a handful of teenagers who, in recent years, have already begun to change the world that we live in by inventing the future:
Hannah Herbst is a 16-year-old who is from Boca Raton, Florida and she has been named ‘America’s Top Young Scientist’. This young woman became interested in green energy early on and has already found a solution for creating cheaper electricity in a greener way—ocean currents. For just $12 Hannah developed a way for developing countries that have a coast to provide much-needed power to residents across the country. The propeller-driven machine are already being considered for powering desalination plants, in order to not only provide energy for the country but also clean, fresh water.
Suman Mulumudi is an 18-year-old from Seattle. He is the creator of a device creating a revolution in the medical industry. Steth IO was Suman’s idea when he was only 15 years old and it has pushed him into the science limelight. At its core, Steth IO is a 3D printed iPhone case that transforms a smartphone into a stethoscope. Suman thought creatively when designing the case, using a sound tunnel so that sounds from the heart can be accurately delivered to the smartphone’s microphone. Suman has decided to continue his work in medical innovations, with his next project being called LesionSizer—a device that can help reduce unnecessary heart stents by more accurately measuring the size of vascular lesions.
Gregory Martin, a 17-year-old from San Diego, California, solved a problem that has plagued scientists for years: More easily turning algae into fuel. The idea of turning algae into fuel is a concept that has been around for a while. But the problem with it is that the process is too difficult for it to be commercialized. For years, scientists would grow algae and then put it into a nitrogen-depleted environment in order to create energy-rich oils. Gregory decided that this process did not create enough oil for it to be worth the lengthy process. If it could create more oil, however, it might just end up worthwhile. So he figured out a way to do just that. Instead of waiting until after the algae was grown to reduce its nitrogen levels, he restricted nitrogen availability levels during the algae’s initial growth stage. Not only did this increase the oil yield, it also made the process faster and it reduced the amount of materials and money needed for the entire process. This revolutionary scientific finding won Gregory the Google Science Fair for his age group.
Ann Makosinski is 19 years old and from Victoria, Canada. When she was 15, Ann became a finalist at the Google Science Fair because of her strides with flashlights. For years, new flashlights with alternate ways of generating power have been all the rage. They use a hand-crank or they are solar-powered. Ann decided to take another look at how to generate the same type of power—and she found it. She pioneered a way of transforming heat energy into electric energy by building a state-of-the-art transformer and circuit. Due to the low-cost method of using aluminum, Peltier tiles, and PVC tubing, the flashlight only costs $26. It transfers heat from the hand—or leg or arm or face—that is five degrees warmer and produces 5.4 mW that allows for five foot candles of brightness—essentially, enough for a flashlight lightbulb.
These three 18-year-olds from Ireland are charging head first into a major world problem: Food shortages. They got first place at the Google Science Fair for creating an agricultural technique that boosts crop yield. They found out that in many parts of Africa there is a naturally occurring nitrogen-fixing bacteria. They decided to try and pair this soil with specific crops to see if that could change the yield. It did. With crops, especially of the cereal variety, that the bacteria rarely encounters, not only does the crop germinate in half the time, but it also yields 74 percent more than it does when the bacteria is not present.
Jamie Edwards is one of the rising stars of science in the United Kingdom. At only 15 years of age he is innovating at a level that has never been seen before. When he was only 13, Jamie managed to create a nuclear fusion reactor. He used a jar-sized box to create a vacuum in a chamber, filled it with deuterium, and ran a very high voltage through it, causing two hydrogen atoms to crash into each other, fuse, and create helium. He is already working at Cern, appearing on late night talk shows, and giving TEDx talks. His latest goal is to develop a hand-held laser cutter.
The education systems around the world are starting to encourage this type of innovation at a young age. To hear about more high school innovators who are inventing the future, click here. And for help on innovations at your company, reach out to The Innovators Network.