Most major innovations in technology and engineering are discovered by experts, reflecting with years of experience in their chosen field. However, every so often a student will surprise the world with an innovation that displays knowledge beyond their years. Many of these devices have gone on to have a significant impact on the engineering landscape, setting their creators on the path to celebrated careers in the process:
After learning that students in developing countries often fail their classes due to a lack of adequate lighting for studying after daylight hours, 15-year old Ann Makosinski from British Columbia invented a thermoelectric flashlight to improve the situation. The Hollow Flashlight shines instantly to the touch by using the Peltier effect; a reaction that occurs when one side of a device is heated and the other is cooled. The user’s body heat has the ability to generate light for up to 20 minutes at a time, providing new opportunities for students to study after dark. Makosinski's award-winning device saw her featured in TIME Magazine's annual list of 30 people under 30 who are changing the world. She has also served as a global ambassador for the Uniqlo Fleece product line, which incorporates a similar technology. Now 18, she is currently an arts student at the University of British Columbia.
Wearable Concussion Sensor
Ben Harvatine and Seth Berg, a pair of engineering students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology joined the wearable tech craze in 2014 by creating the Jolt Sensor, a wearable device that detects in real time when athletes have suffered from a concussion. The device attaches to any athletic headgear, including a helmet or headband, and vibrates when the athlete experiences a dangerous impact. The device instantly sends parents and coaches a notification to their smartphone so they can immediately evaluate an injured athlete. Once off the field, the athlete uses the smartphone to complete a cognitive test found on the Jolt app.
Cavity Fighting Chewing Gum
A group of five mathematics and engineering students from the University of Pennsylvania created a solution for widespread tooth decay in impoverished countries around the world, beginning in Bangalore, India. The team invented Sweet Bites Gum, a sweet chewing gum that contains xylitol, a natural sugar substitute proven to fight tooth decay and prevent bacteria growth. Although xylitol is an ingredient found in most chewing gums, Sweet Bites contains 20 times more xylitol than others, allowing users to fulfill their daily need by chewing one piece after every meal.
Carbon Dioxide Filter
At age 15, Param Jaggi of Plano, Texas invented a bioactive carbon dioxide filter to convert the exhaust from automobiles into oxygen and sugar through photosynthesis. The device, which can be plugged into a car’s muffler, removes nearly 89 percent of carbon dioxide from a car’s exhaust. Now a mechanical engineering, environmental sustainability and economics major at Vanderbilt University, Jaggi is the founder and CEO at Ecoviate, a company that produces sustainable technologies.
Water Purification Disc
PureMadi, a nonprofit and group of seven female students from the University of Virginia, is developing water purification discs to help the Venda region of Limpopo Province, South Africa get access to clean water. Their invention is a simple, ceramic disc infused with silver. Once placed in a glass of water, silver ions release an electrical charge that purifies it. The group has also partnered with the university to develop factories in South Africa that employ female potters and educate them on how to produce ceramic water filters.
Did you make your first creative steps in engineering in the classroom? Even if your first invention didn't put you on any magazine covers, share your stories about it in the comments section below.