July 02, 2020 3 min read
There is no age limit for being interested in science and wanting to make a difference. These three young inventors started creating solutions to change the world when they were teenagers and continue to do so today.
Kiara Nirghin, 19, South Africa
Quote: “Having more young girls in STEM will bring growth to innovation-related industries and benefit many communities.”
When Kiara was 16 years old, South Africa was hit with one of the worst droughts in nearly 45 years. It devastated the country, causing food and water insecurity amongst millions of households. In response to the crisis, Kiara came up with an ingenious solution. Using orange peels and avocado skins, she created a superabsorbent polymer (SAP) that could hold hundreds of times its weight in water. She used her invention for crops, burying the SAP in the soil where it could hold water for plants, and improve their growth by 84%. For her invention, she was the recipient of the Google Science Fair Grand Prize in 2016.
Now at 19 years old, she is still working on solutions to agricultural challenges worldwide, such as water insecurity and water filtration. Additionally, Kiara is an advocate for gender equality in the STEM field and has spoken at TEDx and Forbes Africa about diversifying the industry.
Ann Makosinski, 22, Canada
Quote: “I want kids and young girls to see me and think, Hey, if someone just like me made something, maybe I can make something too.”
Ann Makosinski began her innovative and creative streak at a young age. As a child, she had a strong passion for science and would play with transistors and other gadgets in her home. When she was 15 years old, she discovered that her friend in the Philippines failed high school because she did not have enough light to study at night. Inspired by her personal connection to the issue, Ann was determined to find a solution. She used her knowledge of the thermoelectric effect to create a flashlight powered by body heat, which could then be used by people around the world who did not have reliable access to electricity. Her work was awarded by the Google Science Fair in 2014 and has also been honored by TIME magazine’s 30 Under 30.
Currently, Ann is a student at the University of British Columbia and a public speaker. She travels the world to educate kids on electronics and continues to invent new things. Through her own company, Makotronics Enterprises, she is currently working on an eDrink prototype that would use excess heat from a coffee mug to power cell phones.
Keiana Cavé, 22, New Orleans, Louisiana
Quote: On advocating for girls of color to pursue STEM careers: “Follow what you want to do no matter what … Maybe you don’t look like them and they might not think that you know as much as they do, but you have to prove you do.”
When Keiana was 15 and in her sophomore year of high school, the British Petroleum Oil Spill destroyed ecosystems in her home state of Louisiana. While watching the reports on television, Keiana felt that there could potentially be more environmental dangers from the spill than people initially thought. In particular, she felt that oil sitting on the ocean’s surface could be more harmful than expected. As a result, she began her research on surface-level oil, coming to the significant conclusion that the oil reacts with the sun to become carcinogenic. Her research received $1.2 million in funding and led to her startup Mare, which works on dispersing the oil so its negative effects are lessened.
More recently, Keiana has given talks at TEDx Barcelona and the TEDx of the University of Michigan, where she studied chemical engineering. She is also the CEO of Sublima Pharmaceuticals, which is a startup working on creating the first non-hormonal birth control pill in the US.
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