Let’s face it. Teenagers are useless. I say this having been a teenager. I was useless. Hell, I’m pretty sure I still am, but that’s a conversation for my and a therapist, not a blog. The point is, that among the drama, cyber bullying, and zit cream, there are some bright points of light who are actually working on things to make the world a better place, and maybe even start undoing some of damage that we’ll be leaving for them to take care of.
1. Remya Jose, 14 – From India (Pedal Powered washing machine)
Remya started helping out with the laundry when her mom got sick. Many people in her village had to do their laundry by hand, in the polluted river that was nearby. Using old bike parts, she was able to create a pedal-powered washing machine that could help people who don’t have access to electricity and cut the amount of labor down for cleaning cloths by a great amount of time.
2. Ciara Judge, Émer Hickey, and Sophie Healy-Thow, 17 – From Ireland (New methods to increase crop yields)
These three girls won the Google Science Fair in 2014 with a new method to increase crop yields, making it easier to tackle the global food crisis. How did they do it? They found that by pairing particular bacteria that helps some crops grow faster (legumes) with new crops it had never been associated with (oats and barley), they were able to increase crop yields by close to 75%.
3. Boyan Slat, 19 – from the Netherlands (New way to clean up the ocean)
Slat is the CEO of a company called The Ocean Cleanup, and he’s been working at the company’s main mission since he was 19 years old. Part of his efforts have included a recently completed aerial survey of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch which showed as many as 1,000 large plastic pieces spotted in two hours. However, his new cleanup array has shown so much promise that it won the Katerva Award in 2016, and it looks like it one 63-mile array could “remove 42 percent of the Great Pacific garbage patch in only 10 years.”
4. Shubham Banerjee, 12 – From California (Braille Printer)
Lots of kids love LEGOs, but there aren’t a lot of kids who use them to create life-changing inventions. Using a Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit and $5 of hardware from Home Depot, Banerjee created a low-cost braille printer that he calls the Braigo v1.0. That’s pretty impressive, given that there’s around 285 million people in the world who are visually impaired, and traditional braille printers cost upwards of $2,000. After his invention, the teen went on start his company, Braigo Labs, where he’s continued work on his printer, released an app, and a web platform. And yes, he’s still in highschool.
5. Cynthia Sin Nga Lam, 17 – from Australia (A device that cleans water and makes clean energy simultaneously)
If there are two problems that hit near the top of the list in this world they are energy and clean water. This teen decided that she would take them both on at once. Lam’s portable H2Pro device uses light to speed up a chemical reaction and sterilize water. The main byproduct of this is hydrogen, which can be used to produce clean energy.
6. Leroy Mwasaru, 17 – from Kenya (Turns Poop into power!)
Everybody poops, no matter where they are from and what the color of their skin may be. The problem, especially in lower income and less developed societies, is how to get rid of it all. In kenya, for example, the new dormitories at Leroy Mwasaru’s school were overpowered by the stench of bad sewage systems and over-filled pit latrines being used by the 700 students that resided there. Along with the smell, the waste also polluted the local drinking water. So, Mwasaru and his buddies came up with an idea. They built a human waste bioreactor that could transform waste into a clean cooking fuel for the kitchen. The solution worked so well that the kitchen was able to even stop using firewood and move entirely over to his Biogas. Now, Mwasaru is the founder of Greenpact, and his goal is to use this solution to help six million Kenyans clean up their towns, and create a new power source at the same time.
7. Sun Ming (Simon) Wong and King Pong (Michael) Li, 17 and 18, From Hong Kong (Created a germ-killing handle)
Germs are pretty much everywhere, and bad ones spread easily on surfaces that lots of people touch, like doorknobs. Sun Ming and King Pong found that coating door handles, shopping card rails and other commonly touched items with titanium oxide, they could kill a lot of the harmful bacteria that usually grew there. By then adding an LED into that system, they found that they could kill 99.8 percent of germs on the surface. Not bad for a total cost of just $13.
8. Samuel Burrow, 16 – from England (Cleans pollution with pencils and sunscreen)
In what sounds like more alchemy than science, this teen figured out that you could take the titanium dioxide from suncreen and mix it with graphene oxide from pencils to create a new compound that could break down air pollution when under a light source. The mixture has now been turned into a paint that helps make the air healthier to breathe. Moreover, the same compound has also been found to purify water, and when combined with sand, it has the potential to filter heavy metals out of water.