You don’t have to be a grown up to be amazing. As kids, we all know we’re capable of much more than some adults expect, but when we become adults ourselves, we sometime forget that truly innovative thinking sometime comes from people half our age. That said, in today’s technology-filled world, we’re almost getting used to whiz kids developing apps, building startups and making enormous exits. But there is more to kids than just apps.
Over the centuries, younger people have discovered some of the most note-worthy discoveries ever made. Be it by accident, but sheer determination, simply necessity or pure genius, the world’s children are responsible for many thing we take for granted today. Below is a list of awesome discoveries, all made by children under 18. Some of these date back to the 19th century, while some have been made in the past few years and are still in development. No matter how you look at it, these things have changed, are changing and will change the world in ways you won’t believe.
Chester Greenwood – Earmuffs
Chester Greenwood from Farmington Maine is the famous inventor of the earmuffs, but not many people know that Chester was only 15 when he invented this widely-used accessory. As the story goes, Chester was out ice skating, but his spirits were dampened by his cold ears. After trying several solutions such as wrapping a scarf around his ears (don’t we all try that at some point?), he found a piece of wire and shaped it into two loops, and asked his grandmother to sew fur on them. His new contraption was a huge hit among the local kids, and he soon patented the design and built his own earmuff factory.
As a side note, Chester was a prolific inventor, and is also responsible for patenting the steel-tooth rake, the tea kettle, and more. By the way, a more modern winter accessory, Writsies, was also invented by 10-year-old Kathryn Gregory. Seems like winter makes children prolific!
Joseph-Armand Bombardier – The Snowmobile
Did you know the first snowmobile was actually built by a teenager? For people who live in snow-heavy areas, such as Joseph-Armand’s birthplace in Valcourt, Quebec, it’s hard to imagine life without the snowmobile. True, it’s main use is recreational these days, but it’s still an important vehicle where snow can’t be cleared every day, and sure was when Joseph-Armand started building it back in the 1920s.
As a 15-year-old, he was fed up with not being able to get around in his hometown, and started building the snowmobile as a side project. The actual usable models and his BRP company came to be much later, but the first idea and very first model were built when he was very young. Another winter inspiration story!
Daniel Burd – Plastic Bag Composter
We all know that plastic bags are taking over the world. No matter how much we try, they just keep popping everywhere, filling our drawers, closets, and more importantly, our landfills and oceans. 16-year-old Daniel Burd from Waterloo, Ontario, was tired of having so many plastic bags around the house, and set out to find a combination of bacteria that will be so kind as to get rid of the stuff.
Bacteria can do many intriguing things, so why not eat plastic? Daniel found a combination of two kinds of bacteria that managed to degrade the plastic given to them by 43% in six weeks. This won him the top prize at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Ottawa.
This discovery was made 3 years ago. Hopefully, the world will manage to use it to change history.
Matthew Berger – A New Species of Human Ancestor
Up until now, I focused on cool inventions made by kids. This one is not an invention, but is nonetheless a pretty grand discovery. 9-year-old Matthew Berger was accompanying his paleontologist father to an archeological dig in South Africa. He was looking for fossils when he happened to find the fossilized collarbone of a 2-million-year old child. The piece of collarbone Matthew found led the diggers to two full skeletons belonging to a child and a woman, and were an important milestone on the way to discovering just what kinds of humans have lived here before us.
The bones he discovered belonged to a brand new human species no one has ever seen before. Matthew Berger truly is a kid who made history.
Alison Dana Bick – Low-Cost Water-Testing Method (And App!)
As you’ve probably noticed, the focus of this article is on science rather than on current-day technology. However, it couldn’t be complete without mentioning a way to utilize this every-day technology for science. Allison Dana Bick invented a way to test drinking water for contamination when she was less than 17 years old. The test involves a known pathogen detection chemical and a cell phone app.
I couldn’t actually find this app anywhere (probably not out for general use), but this app is supposed to determine if water is safe to drink or not in a matter of minutes, instead of the current 18 hours. This seems like an invention still in the making, but I found it especially interesting since it makes use of devices we all carry around ever day.
Bonus: Audri Clemmons Builds An Awesome Rube Goldberg Machine!
You don’t want to miss this one. While not being an invention or discovery per se, 7-year-old Audri Clemmons managed to build a Rube Goldberg machine that I could only dream of creating. Not only that, it failed only three times before actually capturing the monster it was built to catch!
Have you heard of other child inventors who changed the world? Tell us about them in the comments!