As the saying goes, children are our future, but usually we expect them to grow up before they start changing the world. Apparently, the kids on this list didn’t get the message — these young people have done more to make the world a better place before they’ve even graduated from high school than I will probably do in my entire life. Here are some of the most amazing, world-changing advancements coming from the mouths and minds of babes.
1. 15-Year-Old Provides Security for Alzheimer’s Patients
One of the biggest fears of people who care for family members with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is the risk of them leaving the house and getting lost. One young inventor was worried his grandfather would come to harm if he wandered off during the night. Now 17, Kenneth Shinozuka was only 15 when he invented SafeWander. What initially started off as a pair of socks equipped with tracking technology has evolved into a tracking button that can be attached to nearly any article of clothing.
It also allows family members to keep track of their loved ones’ movements during the day — information that is stored in the app and can be provided to doctors as needed.
For this invention, Shinozuka won $50,000 and the Scientific American Science in Action Award in 2014. In the years since, he’s founded a health care technology startup called SensaRx.
2. 13-Year-Old Tries to Stop Impaired Driving
Impaired driving is one of the most dangerous things on the road today. In 2015, more than 10,000 people died as a direct result of alcohol-impaired crashes. That’s nearly one-third of the total traffic-related fatalities for the entire year. A 13-year-old inventor in Wichita, Kan., decided enough is enough and has invented a simple way to prevent these numbers from climbing even higher.
The device relies on human pupil reflex. The pupils of the eyes normally dilate in reaction to light. Inhibiting substances changes the way eyes dilate — alcohol and opiates cause pupils to shrink, while other drugs like LSD and cocaine cause the pupils to dilate.
By using a snakehead flashlight, a digital camera and a toilet paper roll, Krishna Reddy’s device takes a picture of how the target’s pupil reacts to light. When paired with software Reddy wrote, the gadget can theoretically determine whether or not the target is impaired.
3. 11-Year-Old Creates Water Filter from Discarded Corn Cobs
Potable water is a difficult-to-obtain commodity in many parts of the developing world. An 11-year-old inventor noticed people leaving lots of discarded corn cobs on the side of the road in her home country of India. Lalita Prasida Sripada Srisai, who is now 16, began testing the idea of using those discarded cobs as a filter system for unclean water.
Your typical Brita household filter removes approximately 99 percent of water contaminants. Srisai’s design, using nothing more than corn cobs and discarded plastic water bottles, filters 80 percent of contaminants.
This invention won the Scientific American Community Impact Award last year, and is poised to become one of the biggest changes to water filtering in developing countries in recent years.
4. 15-Year-Old Develops New, Non-Invasive Test for Cancer
Early detection is one of the most important parts of successful cancer treatment — the earlier the cancer is detected, the higher the chance for successful treatment. Pancreatic cancer is one of the worst — upwards of 85 percent of these cancers are diagnosed too late. When 15-year-old Jack Andraka lost a family friend to pancreatic cancer, he decided current tests aren’t effective enough.
The test is cheap and non-invasive. All you need is a blood sample. When placed on a specialized test strip, the test detects mesothelin in the blood, which is a known indicator of this type of cancer.
While the test is still in clinical trials and may not be available on the market for some time, this is a fantastic advancement in the treatment and early detection of cancer.
Those of us who have already lived through our teenage years might be looking back with new appreciation for the things these young people have accomplished already. These children really are our future, and instead of waiting for the future to come, they’ve started making it happen now. It kind of makes those high school dances and popularity contests seem a bit less important now, doesn’t it?