Some of the most innovative designs these days are coming from the minds of teenagers, a fact that shows a lot of promise for the next generation of engineers.
Even before the kids on this list have left high school, they’re showing keen minds for crafting inventions that display, not only ingenuity in design, but also humanitarian and environmentally friendly aspects.
Click on the photo below to see 10 of the brightest young inventors around.
Ann Makosinski, 16, of Victoria, British Columbia, made headlines last year with the invention of an energy-harvesting flashlight that can run solely on heat generated by the human hand. She won the 15-year-old to 16-year-old prize in the 2013 Google Science Fair for her Hollow Flashlight, which uses the Seebeck effect to create a thermal energy generator for the flashlight. The Hollow Flashlight wasn’t Makosinski’s first invention -- she also developed a piezoelectric flashlight and a solar sandwich, and continues to develop new products she plans to patent and possibly commercialize. (Source: Google)
Amazing snapshops of teens from around the world pursuing innovative solutions that inspire. Make sure and watch the video link provided for Kelvin Doe from Sierra Leone - a self-taught child prodigy whose heart for others is just as inspiring as his mind.
I was especially impressed with Kelvin's story as well, Nancy. It just shows that even without access to formalized education, the brightest minds can still shine. I'm really happy there are programs so kids like Kelvin can get the opportunity they deserve.
It is not only inspiring, but instructive to see how many of these bright kids come not only from outside the US, but even from third-world nations. US technology owes a lot to talented immigrants over the years, and I hope some of the recent trends in restricting US immigration don't impede progress for the whole of humanity.
Good point, Zippy. I actually just read another article (but I can't find it) about an African boy who built a solar powered car. I think it's so amazing that kids are thinking outside of the box and doing what they can with the sometimes limited resources they have to make their lives better and possibly even the lives of others as well. I wonder sometimes if having too much at our disposal makes us lazy, and if kids without other distractions are really the ones who will be changing the world in the future.
I admire these kids because they are responding to the needs around them. The average American kid is looking for entertainment, many of these kids are looking to survive another day. A great book to read that will shake up your world is The Queen of Katwe - it is the story of a preteen girl who lives in the slums of Katwe in Uganda. Through the coaching of a missionary she has risen to become the chess champion of her country. The descriptions in this book will open your eyes as to how other people are living and it is not fifty years ago - it is today. Young people like Phiona (the queen of Katwe) and Kelvin are truly inspirational.
That is exactly one of the points I wanted to make, Nancy--I couldn't have said it better myself. I admire these kids so much not just because of their ingenuity, but also because of the social mindedness they have, sometimes even when they themselves don't have access to information and technology. That book sounds really interesting. I will have to check it out. Thanks for your comment.
Compiling this list made me realize that, despite many of the negative headlines about teenagers, there are so many inspiring kids out there doing things that deserve a lot more attention. I believe we'll be hearing a lot more in the future from the teens on this list and they all prove that the younger generation is aware of what the world needs more so than many realize.
My daughter and I were just talking a week ago about the fact that many youngsters seem to have a 'what do you mean my phone can't do that?" attitude.
And that once that thought takes hold in the right kid... they just get busy and make an app for that function.
I noticed that the prosthetics were made with Arduino tech. Cheap and easy way (relatively cheap & easy) to do computer control of real world items. This should be a middle school standard offering, along with BeagleBoard and the other top programmable hobby boards. I'd say smart phone app developer should be part of that same class too.
Those are really good thoughts about middle school class offerings, Ralphy Boy. That is a great age for capturing the imagination of youth. Where I grew up we had no electronics classes to speak of - I was the only girl in my shop class which was the closest to hands-on creativity that we had. I remember visiting the parents of a young engineer I used to date - they lived in another state - my then boyfriend at the time took me to his old middle school and we peeked through the windows of his old electronics class. I was amazed at the equipment they had for the kids (I saw at least a couple of o'scopes and function generators on tables and DMMs and a host of electronic parts in bins) - and it was his experience in that class that inspired him to become an engineer.
That's a very succinct and good way to describe the attitude of kids today. While sometimes I think kids are being quite spoiled today with their access to expensive and high-tech toys (and things that aren't toys, like iPhones etc.), and I think that perhaps they lose some imagination this way, you do point out an advantage to being tech-savvy at a young age. Kids now are starting to look at the technology they have access to and begin to want to add functionality and solve problems early, maybe only for their own self-interest sometimes, because they want to do something they can't with a phone or device. But in the end it could be a very good thing for their future as an inventor or engineer.
These really are encouraging for our future; I especially was impressed by the lead-photo describing new energy harvesting methods, and second by the bio-plastic sourced from banana peels.It is refreshing to me seeing innovations that are not simply related to Smartphone Apps.Like a breath of fresh-air.
You make good points, JimT. It would be so easy for kid inventors to just fall back on the technology they're most familiar with--mobile devices--and come up with clever apps and games, which is what a lot of kids already do. In fact, Shiva Nathan admitted that before he designed the prosthetic arm, he was working on a game app. So you're right that it's great to see kids thinking out of the box and also showing a humanitarian nature. They are indeed impressive.
Elizabeth, while I agree with your statement about some teens being inspiring and innovative, i wish we could come up with some way to affect the teens that are living out technology with video game obsessions. They are spending so much time and energy on "building their stats" in what ultimately is a wasted endeavor. Maybe someone can invent a video game that can work towards solving real world problems, yet capture the attention of gamers so they are using their time in a productive way.
Nancy, your wish is granted. There are a number of people and institutions working on apps to apply game technology to real-world problems. The most famous is probably Fold It, which allows the user to manipulate online strings of amino acids to figure out the 3D structure of important biological proteins which have up until now be unsolved by conventional means:
Interesting app share, Zippy. It's good to see the same principle behind games being put to a bit more analytical and practical use. So maybe all those hours kids spend in front of the computer playing games aren't all for naught. I do believe there is some value in it.
Nancy, I could not agree more. For the life of me I can't really see the benefits from video games and how those games further a young person's ability to deal with life's problems. (Of course that's just me.) The slide show presented by Elizabeth definitely demonstrates the enormous possibility when individuals, including teens, are engaged. I'm blown away by the quality of the devices and projects undertaken. These kids really have accomplished a great deal in a short time with seemingly limited resources. Let's hope they follow-through by staying with engineering and technology.
I know exactly what you mean, Nancy. Video games are one of the "distractions" I was thinking of when I wrote my previous comment. I think the reason some of these innovations are coming out of under developed countries is that kids don't have these types of things to occupy their minds and so can use their imaginations and skills a bit more freely. Although I do think there is some kind of analytical and problem-solving value to video games, in moderation.
Good point about innovations coming out of under-developed countries, Liz. About 10-15 years ago, a Design News editor interviewed an undersecretary of the Commerce Department, who said that there is no shortage of engineers in this country. There's only a shortage of American-born engineers.
That's really interesting, Chuck. It does seem that a lot of the engineering talent is coming from outside the country, and often people come to the U.S. for job opportunities. I guess this is why STEM efforts are being ramped up so much for kids and students.
Elizabeth--Excellent post. There are two or three things that really stand out for me, namely:
1.) The quality of the "inventions "and/or project is absolutely marvelous.
2.) The ladies are just as engaged as the guys. This is a great trend.
3. Each project is one that can possibly affect our "human condition" and relieve difficulties experienced in the real world.
4.) The winners are multi-national demonstrating involvement on a global scale. This, in my opinion, is a great thing.
Very happy to see that monetary rewards were given. This shows that $$$ can be had by applying engineering and scientific principals and "book learning" is the road map to a fascinating career. Again--great post.
You make excellent points, bobjengr, and these are also things I found so impressive about the teens and their inventions. It's so great to see young women getting involved, and the socially conscious aspect of many of these designs is really impressive. In short, I think the kids get it!
Great teens, great opportunities for them, encouraging hopes for engineering development, and also to some extent intriguing seeing a nice promissing Romanian engineer passing as a Turkish fellow, even while holding his own country's Flag !
The correction for the caption of Ionut Budisteanu's picture would be appreciated.
I know what you mean, Cabe, it's really impressive. When I was their age I was just reading books and riding my bike, not inventing technology that would change the world. It's good to know not all kids today are sitting around playing video games or committing crimes, like the ones you see in the media.
In as much as, great inventions have already been made, the contribution made by creative teenagers is of a lot of importance. This shows the great minds that are going to tech over the next generation of technological advancement which is quite encouraging. An example being invention of an energy-harvesting flashlight that can run solely on heat generated by the human hand by a 15- year old. This is very fascinating and also encouraging. These young minds should be encouraged and even provided with the recommended resources to be able to achieve greater things.
Indeed, AandY, I hoped that the slideshow would provide a glimpse of what we can expect from our next generation of bright minds. I found it quite encouraging, too, especially since there is so much negative press about young people. This shows a different story.
California State University, Chico was the first school in California to offer an ABET-accredited degree program in mechatronic engineering. Now its California Mechatronics Center works with industry on machinery, robotics, and surveillance vehicles.
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