In 1824, Louis Braille developed the first iteration of his tactile writing system. With his invention, the visually impaired regained their ability to read, making is easier for them to communicate and learn. At the time, Braille was only 15 years old. For many inventors, the desire to help others and change the world comes at a very early age. With modern technology, kids are able to build prototypes and invent devices that have an impact on society. Here are five kids who are creating inventions to save lives today.
Inventor #1: The 11 Year Old Cancer Survivor & Her Pediatric Backpack
After beating cancer at age 9, Kylie Simonds wanted to solve a problem that plagued chemotherapy patients. During her time in the hospital, Simonds’ movement was limited due to being connected to a large IV bag. Simonds told ABC News that she remembered “tripping over all the wires, getting tangled up and having to drag this big thing around.” So she designed and built a Pediatric IV Backpack that allows children receiving medical transfusions to move around, and makes their treatment a little more bearable. Kylie Simonds is currently taking donations on her GoFundMe page in hopes of manufacturing her backpacks and turning her invention into a product.
Inventor #2: The 18 Year Old & His Alzheimer Alert System
Alzheimer’s disease is the fastest-growing threat to Americans’ health, and its symptoms not only affect the patients, but also their loved ones. Kenneth Shinozuka knows this all too well. He remembers being 4 years old, walking in a park in Japan with his grandfather, when his grandfather suddenly got lost. It was then that his family learned that his grandfather has Alzheimer’s. Kenneth needed a way know when his grandfather wandered out of his bed in the middle of the night. So at age 15, Kenneth designed a sock with a pressure sensor that, when activated by a step, would send a message to the smartphone of his grandfather’s caretakers. Not only was Kenneth successful in taking care of his grandfather, but his invention won first prize and the $50,000 Scientific American Science in Action Award. Kenneth is now attending Harvard, and was a judge in our Invent For Good challenge. You can learn more in Kenneth’s TED Talk from 2014.
Inventor #3: The 15 Year Old & Her Nebulizer Dryer
We were first introduced to this next inventor by our friend Gokul Krishnan, whose Project MACH aims to bring mobile makerspaces to children’s hospitals. These makerspaces allow young patients with chronic illnesses to invent with products such as littleBits and 3D printers. One such inventor is Daelyn James, who used littleBits and parts she 3D printed to create a device to let Cystic Fibrosis patients dry their nebulizers. Daelyn invented the device at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, where she gets treatment for CF. The mobile makerspace allows Daeyln to get up and out of bed more often, which helps her treatments be more effective. CBS Evening News stopped by Daeyln’s hospital room to see how she invents.
Inventor #4: The 15 Year Old & Her Ocean Energy Probe
Hannah Herbst wants to provide fresh water and a source of sustainable power to people in developing countries. So she invented the Ocean Energy Probe, a device that converts ocean currents into usable power through a generator. Hannah 3D printed her design after modeling it using CAD, and she estimates that if she scales up her prototype she’ll be able to convert enough current into energy to power three car batteries in under one hour! Hannah wants to use her invention to power water desalination pumps to convert salt water to potable water. “I’m excited to aid the world’s energy crisis. I can’t wait to save lives with my invention!” Hannah’s invention won first prize in Discovery Education & 3M’s Young Scientist Challenge.
Inventor #5: The 10 Year Old & His Self-Disinfecting Hazmat Suit
While following coverage of the Ebola scare of 2014, 9 year old Mark Leschinsky of Mahwah, New Jersey, felt that he wanted to help. He saw a problem in the way hazmat suits were designed, realizing that “900 healthcare workers got infected despite wearing conventional suits.” So Mark invented a Self-Disinfecting Hazmat Suit designed to keep workers safe when treating patients. The suit has three layers, an impenetrable inner layer, a center layer with pockets filled with disinfecting solution, and an external perforated layer that lets the solution out to kill viruses on the suit. In 2015, Mark was inducted into National Gallery of Young Inventors. PopSci visited Mark last October to learn more about his life-saving invention.