When you think of inventors you’re usually thinking about scientists in spotless labs or engineers building machines in huge R&D centres but that’s not the only way to be an inventor. In fact, you don’t even have to be an adult or have a degree, you could just be someone that pursues an idea and sticks with it until it becomes successful. This article is a list of young inventors some new, some old but all very young when they became inventors.
- Louis Braille invented the Braille language for the visually impaired at the age of 15. It’s an interesting story beginning with Louis receiving a scholarship to the National School for the Blind when he was 10. The school used specially made books that used printed letters that were raised from the page and were printed in a very large font. The idea was that students would touch the letters and be able to recognize them. These books were very expensive to print and were substantially larger than regular books due to the larger font. Due to these constraints, the school possessed only 14 books which had to be shared among 100 students. When Louis was 11, a soldier from the army visited the school and introduced them to ‘sonography’ a method of reading using touch that was used in the military to communicate silently. Sonography employed raised dots similar to modern braille script but had 12 dots in two rows that represented letters, punctuation and phonetics. When Louis was 15 he decided that sonography could be simplified by using only 6 dots which was enough to represent the letters and basic punctuation. Students at the school were able to learn and read using Braille much faster than sonography and it became the language used at the school. It would eventually become the language that blind people all over the world would use to read.
- Philo Farnsworth is the inventor of the television. He began his research when he was only 14 years old. He had the idea of creating a digital display by scanning electrons on a glass screen using a back and forth motion. He drew a diagram representing this idea and asked his high school teacher if his idea would work, his teacher wasn’t able to completely comprehend Philo’s idea and made a copy of the diagram in his notebook. When Philo turned twenty-one he successfully developed and patented the world’s first working electronic television. But another inventor who had registered a patent before Philo for a digital display that didn’t work managed to make his device work soon after Philo received his patent. But since the original registration of this inventor was earlier than Philo’s a dispute arose as to who the patent belongs to. Philo managed to win the case thanks to his chemistry teacher presenting the diagram he had made which proved that Philo had been working on his design for many years, ever since he was 14.
- Alexis Lewis is the 17-year-old inventor of the Xcaper’s emergency mask. It’s an emergency mask that’s intended to be thrown to people trapped in burning buildings to protect them from smoke inhalation, which is fatal. Alexis realized that the first responders such as police and ambulance staff aren’t equipped with the protective gear required to run into a burning building and therefore have to wait for firefighters to arrive before the victims receive any aid. The emergency mask is meant to prevent smoke inhalation and comes in a pod that can be easily thrown through open windows or balconies to people so that they do not inhale too much smoke by the time the firefighters get to them, the pods can also be used to keep smoke out of the user’s eyes. The entire invention was built using a 3-D printer.
- Boyan Slat founded The Ocean Cleanup a non-profit organization that’s focused on removing plastic waste out of the oceans. The task was difficult, due to the size of the oceans and the amount of plastic waste present in the oceans. This story begins in 2011 when Boyan was 16 and was diving in Greece but saw more plastic than fish. He did his research and realized that the plastic in oceans was a huge problem. He began working on a solution and built the Ocean Cleanup project that uses the ocean current to bring the plastic waste to his system which grabs it. The first system is set to be deployed in mid-2018 and complete deployment of all systems is expected to be completed by 2020.
- Brittany Wenger, in 2012 when she was 18, wrote a program that uses an artificial intelligence to detect breast cancer with an accuracy rate of over 99% using a non-invasive biopsy. As the AI gains more experience it will only get better at detecting breast cancer. Soon after this success, Brittany turned her attention to detecting mixed lineage leukaemia an aggressive type of cancer using AI. The program required over 600 hours of coding and over 7.6 million trials to make the neural net as accurate as it is. Her findings may even help create new treatments for this cancer.
- Param Jaggi invented the Algae Mobile a small canister full of algae that is fit onto the exhaust pipes of vehicles. The carbon dioxide emitted by the vehicle is absorbed by the algae, is used for photosynthesis and oxygen is released instead. He got the idea when he was 15 and learning to drive. He was waiting at a stop sign and noticed that the car in front of him was releasing clouds of exhaust fumes, this gave him the idea to create Algae Mobiles to absorb all the gases vehicles produce.
It is clear that there is no minimum age to be an inventor. The most crucial thing that every child must learn is that they are all born with the ability to be an inventor. Every mind has unique thoughts and can create inventions of great value if only they believe in themselves and pursue their ideas until they’re successful.