Every generation of young engineers and innovators benefits from access to knowledge and experiences that weren't available to their predecessors. Technological advances and the patronage of various foundations are helping teens to leverage their abilities in advanced fields such as astrophysics, engineering, medicine and science to develop projects and innovations that are seemingly far beyond their years.
Here is a selection of promising young talents who have already established themselves as 'ones to watch' in their chosen fields. Meet the engineering class of 2020...
At the tender age of 17, Canadian Raymond Wang invented a system to improve air quality on planes and curb the transmission of infectious diseases.By using fin-shaped devices to redirect the airflow inside the cabins of commercial aircraft, Wang's invention creates virtual walls of air around each passenger, improving the availability of fresh air by as much as 190 per cent, and reducing the concentration of airborne germs by 55 times. It could also be easily and economically incorporated into the conventional models of existing airplanes. In 2015, Wang was awarded first place at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fare, including a cash prize of $75,000.
Another Canadian, 16-year old Nicole Ticea also made waves in 2015 when she was named an Intel Foundation Young Scientist winner, winning a cash prize of $50,000. Her innovation uses Isothermic Nucleic Acid Amplification to detect HIV infection near-instantaneously via a single drop of blood on a chip. This low-cost, easy to use device offers faster detection to millions of potential HIV carriers. Ticea subsequently founded her own company, received a US grant for $100,000 and continues to work on developing her technology at Stanford University.
Both students of the North Mumbai Welfare Society High School in Ghatkopar, India, Kajol Shelke and Sakshi Pandey were inspired by their studies of the dehydration process while visiting a local Sapodilla farm. They noticed that the fumes emitted during dehydration were high in nutritive values, but appeared to be going to waste. Their argo-dehydrator is a modified microwave oven that captures moisture via a tube and then releases vapor from the fruits and vegetables to re-condense into a nutritive drink. Their smart thinking won them the bronze medal in engineering at the 2015 International Sustanable World Project Olympiad.
Then an 18-year old cattle farmer from Northern Ireland, Colum McNally developed the 'Agrihammer', a hydraulic machine for both log splitting and fence building, as a sustainable and cost-effective way to prevent farming accidents. The device drills fence posts into the ground and chops wood, combining functions that would otherwise require two separate machines, and identifies danger zones to ensure that the user can only operate the device from a position of safety. McNally was named UK Young Engineer of the Year in 2015 and also won first prize at the National Science & Engineering Competition the same year.
Thanks to the opportunities provided by schools, dedicated teachers and supportive parents, plus competitions and funding, many of the prodigies of today could become the leaders of tomorrow. Could the next great innovation spring out of your classroom? Share your experiences of working with talented young inventors and engineers, or let us know about a future thought leader that you feel deserves more attention using the comments section below...