Amazing teens who are changing the world

With each school year, many students look towards the future wondering if finishing their homework is all they will be able to accomplish at their age. Some ask,” What could I, a teenager in high school, do to make a change.” As it turns out, a great deal can be done when a young person puts their mind to it. Here are a few young people who managed to invent, create and problem solve in ways that often eludes even adults.  At any age, they are inspiring people who did what few could. Without a driver’s license and just the drive to change the world, they made a difference.

Kelvin Doe: Engineering DJ

Kelvin Doe is from Sierra Leone, a ravaged African country torn by a decade-long civil war which left thousands dead and the economy devastated. Astonishingly, 70% of the population is poor. Kelvin’s life was hard from the very beginning. His father abandoned his mother when she refused to abort him, leaving her to raise five children on her own in an impoverished nation. Like most in the country, she had no power in her house. Most people would assume that this would be Kelvin’s situation for the rest of his life. Kelvin didn’t think so; he says he loves the people of Sierra Leone and sought to improve the lives of the people in his community.

At age 11, Kelvin began building. He salvaged scrap electronic parts from junkyards, teaching himself how they worked and how to use them. He repaired radios, still the main source of entertainment for rural areas, in his community for free. Later he built generators for himself and others to power the lights in their homes. At the age of 14, he built his own three-channel mixer, sound amplifier, and microphone receiver. With that and an FM transmitter, he began to bring music to the otherwise quiet homes of his community, going by the name DJ Focus.

At the age of 16, Doe won one of the top prizes in Global Minimum’s Innovate Salone of 2012, a competition created to support young innovators in Sierra Leone, for his use of scraps to make generators. This led him being chosen to travel to New York to speak at the World Maker Faire, a science forum that celebrates the world’s young scientist and engineers. Kelvin then became the youngest visiting practitioner a person qualified in a certain field, at the MIT International Development Initiative, one of the top engineering and science schools in the world. He also was selected to lecture undergraduates at Harvard University. Kelvin is extraordinary, not just because of his accomplishments, but because he wanted to help and provide for his family and his friends, turning what he liked into energy, lights, and music.

Marian Bechtel: Musical Landmines

Marian Bechtel was a very smart, musical girl from Lancaster Pennsylvania born from two geologist parents. When scientist friends of her parents told Marian about the horrors of landmines, how buried mines infest 70 countries and someone, somewhere dies from one every 20 minutes, Marian thought of a way to bring her two interests together to do some real good.

At the age of 13, Marian noticed that whenever she played a certain note on her piano a string from her banjo would buzz and resonate to that note. This got her thinking, could land mines resonate? Current ways of detecting landmines were costly and could not work on all certain terrains, specifically wet soil. Marian was determined to change that. With help from her parents, she re-purposed a metal detector frame and combined it with high-powered microphones and a seismic shaker, allowing it to rattle the ground. Using seismo-acoustics, a combination of both sound waves and vibrations, she created a formula for measuring wave-forms that indicates the location of deeply buried landmines.

The best part of the device is that it’s cost-effective and works on all terrains. Marian’s prototype could vastly improve humanitarian efforts of bomb disposal and could save the lives of hundreds of people killed by landmines. Marian brought her invention to the White House science fair where she won a second place award from the American Intellectual Property Law Association, a merit award from the Society of Exploration Geophysicists and a $1,000 award from the U.S. Army for her project. She was recently awarded a fellowship with the Davidson Institute for Talent and Development for her minesweeper. Marian has accomplished much, proving that sometimes, to change the world you just need your mind attuned to the sound of music.

Ionut Budisteanu: Smart Car, Smarter Kid

Ionut Budisteanu, born December 1, 1993, is a Romanian prodigy known for his significant activity in computer science, and he may never need a driver’s license. Ionut has always been fascinated by computers. Receiving his first at age three, he quickly grew comfortable playing games on it, and in third grade, he became interested in 3D computer-generated imagery, around the time most kids were learning to tie their shoes. Around nine, he spent many nights sleeping on his keyboard because he couldn’t bear to leave it as he was constantly working on programming computer applications. In 9th grade, he was invited to start college studies at San Francisco University, which he promptly denied as he thought he was too young and wanted to stay closer to home. Near the end of his time in high school, Ionut began work on a big project. He observed that many of the deaths in car accidents were caused by human error. Computers are precise, rarely making mistake, and knowing this, he set out to build a self-driving car. Though self-driving cars are nothing new, only about 10 of them exist and function properly. Unlike those Budisteau’s is low-cost, allowing to be made for only $4,000, a fraction of the cost for any other self-driving car, which typically runs at about $75,000. With his own programming techniques, Ionut created an artificial intelligence that drove a car with cheaper low-res equipment and still succeeded in test versus cars with expensive HD cameras. Though initial tests did not guarantee 100% safety, Budisteanu model performed almost as well as the more expensive cars, even with its simpler programming. Ionut’s car earned him fame and many rewards. He received the 2013 Gordon E. Moore Award, the grand prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and was recognized as one of the Top 16 Influential teens by Time magazine. An Asteroid was even named after him, 28854 Budisteanu. He says he was motivated to build this car to help people, to prevent the injury and death that comes from car accidents.

Eesha Khare: 1 Minute Charger

Eesha Khare, born in 1995, is an American East Indian student from Saratoga, Ca. who, like almost every other teenager, is completely dependent on her cell phone. One day she found herself alone, far from home, and worst of all, with a dead phone. Terrifying, I know. Luckily she found a pay phone and got a ride from her parents.

However, that experience opened her eyes to one, if not the most aggravating aspect of cell phone use, battery life. Phones can carry a charge for hours at a time, but they also take hours to charge. Eesha was determined to fix that. She developed a supercapacitor energy storage device made of carbon fiber and metal oxides. The supercapacitor would charge faster and last longer than previous batteries, an innovation others had been in desperate demand for years. The prototype she created, though much smaller than the average cell phone battery, still had an impressive charge time of 20 seconds and could power a string of LED lights for an hour.

If Eesha’s version was to be scaled to phone size, the cell could be fully charged in between one or two minutes. If scaled even further to accommodate an engine, it could possibly be used as a car battery as well. Khare’s invention, when entered at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair won her second place among 1,600 others, and $5,000 from the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award. Now in Harvard, Eesha looks to further develop her invention and make it accessible to everyone.