Remember when you were a kid and you spent your days doing kid stuff; watching Grease two dozen times, building a fort, pretending it was actually your kid brother who ate all the lollies? Yeah, me too.
But kids these days (gosh, did I actually just type that?) they are, I’m loath to admit, smarter than we were at their age. And they’re not content to just sit around and wait for hoverboards to be invented, either. Instead they’ve taken to inventing things themselves, and gosh darn, their inventions are actually pretty amazing.
From flashlights powered by body heat to innersole phone chargers, here are the teenage whiz kids who’ve taken the science world by storm by turning the mundane into, quite literally, the electrifying.
Ann Makosinski, 16: Developed a flashlight powered by body heat
The winner of 2013’s Google Science Fair developed a handheld flashlight, powered entirely by human body heat. The flashlight doesn’t require any batteries or to be plugged into a power socket to work at all; just hold it in your hand and it produces light drawn from your own body heat.
Makosinski was inspired to develop the flashlight after her friend in the Philippines told her that the reason she had failed a school test was because her family didn’t have enough money for electricity, preventing her from studying at night.
So Makosinski began searching for a way to harness body heat to power a light – the answer: mix thermoelectric tiles with a tweaked circuit to produce what she called a ‘hollow torch’. With a little more development, it’s thought Makosinski’s invention could also help to bring light to the billions around the world with little or no electricity in their homes. Pretty nifty, huh?
Jessica O Matthews, 18: Invented a power storage device from a soccer ball
During a trip to visit her aunt in Nigeria, Jessica O. Matthews, then just an undergraduate at Harvard University, discovered two things about Nigerians: 1) they have a serious problem with intermittent electricity (her entire trip was punctuated by daily, if not twice daily, blackouts that lasted for hours; and 2) Nigerians sure do love their soccer.
Once back at home in the United States and back at university, Matthews gathered her classmates and together they began working on an idea she’d had for harnessing and storing energy, which could be used for power at a later time.
The result was Soccket, a soccer ball fitted with a conductive coil on the inside and a power outlet on the outside. Any movement in the ball – whether it’s from being kicked or rolled on the ground, or from flying through the air – generates energy, which is stored in the ball to be used as an alternate power source later.
Since then, Matthews and co. started their own company to manufacture and distribute Soccket’s, which have been successfully rolled out to kids in Latin America, Tanzania, South Africa, and, of course, Nigeria, the country where it all began.
Angelo Casimiro, 15: Created an innersole phone charger
If there are two things kids these days need, it’s more juice in their phone batteries and to get out more, to be with nature, get some exercise (‘but what if my phone dies when I’m out there in nature?’). Well, Angelo Casimiro, a 15-year-old from the Philippines has a fix for that with his handy little invention: an innersole phone charger.
The inner sole, which feels like a gel insert but looks like a USB phone charger (because, eew! No one wants to be the guy with his stinky shoe innards displayed for the entire world to see) uses to energy produced from your footsteps to be used as a power source for your phone or iPod when it needs recharging.
Casimiro also hopes that shoe manufacturers like Nike will someday use the device, which also has the capability for GPS, to power fitness chips that could be synced to your phone wirelessly, without the need to plug your phone into your shoes.
So there you have it, friends. Kids who have found ways to turn everyday activities into alternative power sources. Makes me feel guilty about my wasted youth. Then again, they still haven’t found away to make hoverboards happen, so at least I can feel smug about that.