As kids, most of us spent our days playing hopscotch, toying with action figures, maneuvering Tetris blocks, and wrestling with Donkey Kong. Not these creative tykes, however! These eight amazingly innovative kids and adolescents are inventing up a storm — whether for their own personal kicks (Hibiki Kono’s wall-scaling backpack), to help their community (Kelydra Welcker’s water-filtration method), or to save the world (Javier Fernández-Han’s algae-driven super-system). Need some inspiration today? Click through our slideshow of amazing kid inventors for a look at the creative solutions the next generation is conjuring up for this one.
BEN GULAK + JASON MORROW – Built the Tango Electric Motorcycle
Ontario teenagers Ben Gulak and Jason Morrow, who were 18 in 2007, built a Segway-inspired electric motorcycle with a difference: It has no hand-steering controls. Dubbed the “Tango,” the electric vehicle moves forward, right, or left, depending on its rider’s body movements.
MAX WALLACK- Created the Home Dome
PBS Kids’ found a winner in Max Wallack, then 12, when he invented the “Home Dome” for its Trash to Treasure competition. Composed of plastic bags filled with Styrofoam packing peanuts, the yurt-shaped structure was designed to offer temporary shelter for homeless people and disaster victims, while relieving landfills of non-biodegradable waste.
DANIEL BURD – Sped up Plastic Decomposition
Plastic isn’t fantastic for Daniel Burd, a 16-year-old student in Canada who found a way to use microbes to degrade plastic bags in as little as three months. Burd, whose project won the top prize at the 2008 Canada-Wide Science Fair in Ottawa, found that necessity invention. “Almost every week I have to do chores and when I open the closet door, I have this avalanche of plastic bags falling on top of me,” he said. “One day, I got tired of it and I wanted to know what other people are doing with these plastic bags.”
ELIZABETH RINTELS – Invented the Water Watcher
In 2008, Elizabeth Rintels, then 12, won the grand prize in By Kids For Kids’ Going Green Challenge with a smart device that measures and monitors water use in the shower. Rintel’s gadget, which can be attached to any faucet, lights up and beeps with every half-gallon of water that gushes forth.
KELYDRA WELCKER – Created a Water Filtration System
Kelydra Welcker was only in 7th grade when she figured out a simple test for ammonium perfluorooctanoate, a chemical that was polluting the local waters of the Ohio River where she lived, just 7 miles downstream from a DuPont plant. Then, operating out of a trailer behind her house, Welcker devised a way to remove the Teflon surfactant from the water by combining granular activated carbon and a pair of electrodes. With some help from the local utility company and DuPont, Welcker, now in college, hopes to implement her desktop unit on a community-wide scale.
HIBIKI “SPIDER BOY” KONO – Invented a Wall-Climbing Backpack
Hibiki Kono may not have Spiderman’s web-slinging powers, but the 13-year-old British schoolboy can scale walls almost as well. His not-so-secret: A high-tech “backpack” that harnesses the suction power of two recycled vacuum cleaners—perfect, Kono says, for your friendly neighborhood window washer.
JAVIER FERNANDEZ-HAN – Designed the Versatile System
Javier Fernández-Han was only 9 when he decided he wanted to design for the other 90 percent. Several years later, Fernandez-Han devised the Versatile System, a mix of new and existing technology that uses algae to treat waste, produces methane and bio-oil as fuel, grows food, and traps greenhouse gases.
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