5 Youth Inventions that Changed the World

5 Youth Inventions that Changed the World

Maybe you’re not convinced that young people can change the world. Maybe you think “what can a kid do?”

Unfortunately, this is a fairly common thought that can affect a child’s aspirations. It can make kids feel like their ideas don’t matter.

The truth is, youth are some of the best idea-makers. They are imaginative and able to think without as many boundaries as adults have.

At The Peterson League, we think kids can do amazing things.

To dispel the myth that they can’t, we’re going to talk about some young people who didn’t let this thinking hold them back from putting their great ideas to use.

These kids invented some awesome ways to help people and you can too!


The Hollow Flashlight

In the post “How to Brainstorm Youth Project Ideas,” we talk about thinking of community needs to jump start idea brainstorming. Here’s a young person who took a problem she saw and built a solution.

This invention, created by fifteen-year-old Anna Makosinski, creates energy using body heat. This energy is used to power the flashlight, eliminating the need for batteries or electricity.

Anna was inspired to create this invention by a friend in the Philippines who failed in school because she didn’t have enough light to study at night.

She took her love for electronics and turned it into something that could help people. From these two things came the hollow flashlight.


Pancreatic Cancer Diagnostic Test

Who says teenagers can’t help fight cancer? Cancer is a complex problem that can benefit from putting many heads together, including youth.

Jack Andraka, fifteen-years-old at the time, created a new pancreatic cancer diagnostic test that can detect this form of cancer with 90% accuracy. This new test is cheaper, faster, and more sensitive than current testing options.

This is huge, as pancreatic cancer is a very aggressive type of cancer with a five-year survival rate of 6%. The diagnosis is often delivered late, after the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Early detection could be key to saving lives.

This young person used his passions and skills to create something that has the ability to change quality of life for may people!


Milk Pasteurization with Beeswax

Here’s another example of solving a need, this time in the form of a group of girls who banded together to help others.

A group of four young girls who call themselves the Hippie Pandas were inspired after learning how women in Nicaragua experience higher rates of miscarriage and disease due to drink unpasteurized milk. They developed a way to pasteurize milk with beeswax, something accessible to the people of Nicaragua.

When asked what they learned from this experience, one of the girls answered “We learned that as kids, we can help people around the world to live safer lives.”

Great job, girls!


Navigation App for Visually Impaired

For this group of six middle school girls, inspiration came from someone they saw every day, a visually-impaired student at their school.

Inspired by this student and a desire to help their school, they developed a mobile phone application called “Hello Navi.” This combines digital tools such as a compass, scanner, VoiceOver, optical Braille readers, and Google indoor navigation technology to help visually-impaired students navigate indoor spaces.

Think about trying to make your way from point A to point B in a huge crowd of people. Now think about trying to do that while blind.

Crowded, narrow hallways can be a big challenge for visually impaired students that involves a lot of training to get the student comfortable.

The girls won the 2013-2014 Verizon Innovative App Challenge, which gave them the funds to make their app idea a reality. This application, now available through the Android app store, can help visually impaired students with little training necessary.


Exhaust Filter

Param Jaggi’s invention was inspired by his love for knowing what’s on the inside of things. He took a large-scale problem, ozone depletion, and decided to do what he could to help.

He put his passion for engineering to use and invent ways to help the environment. At just 17, Param was recognized by Forbes for his exhaust filter contraption, called the “CO2tube.”

This device fits on the tailpipe of a vehicle and uses algae to filter carbon dioxide and convert it to oxygen. This device can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 50%!

Param didn’t stop at one invention. At 17, Param also started his company Ecoviate to engineer sustainable, environmentally-friendly technology.



These students found inspiration in different places, from a single individual or community to a world-wide problem. As a result of their hard work, they created solutions to pressing problems and helped people.

You don’t have to find a cure for cancer to make a difference. You don’t have to be a “whiz-kid” or a “prodigy” to do great things. You just have to do something. 

Making a difference can mean expanding one person’s quality of life. It can mean taking on a simple community project to help a couple people or a whole neighborhood. Even the smallest projects can have long-lasting impact.

This doesn’t mean you have to start small. We encourage you to dream big. Just know you don’t have to come up with a big, stellar idea or have a specialized skill to make a change.

We’re hoping these young inventors inspire you as much as they inspire us.

What are your favorite youth inventions?

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