The focus for this year’s United Nations’ International Day of the Girl Child on Friday, October 11, is innovating for girls’ education. It’s a more than fitting theme in a year that has seen 16-year-old education advocate Malala Yousafzai make a remarkable recovery after being shot in the head by the Taliban and become a popular favorite to win this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
It was just about a year ago that Malala was gravely wounded while she and other students were returning home from school in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. After multiple surgeries in the U.K. and a long hospital stay, Malala has returned to school, published a memoir, I Am Malala and won the European Union’s Sakharov human rights prize. She continues to speak up about the necessity of education for girls everywhere and especiallyin parts of the world where illiteracy rates are high.
The U.N. recently issued a report that underscored the many challenges faced by adolescent girls who have had to flee their homes and found themselves, all too often without their parents, in refugee camps where they face sexual abuse, exploitation and forced marriage. Malala’s story reminds us of all that one girl can do and why, on the International Day of the Girl Child and every other day, we need to nurture girls’ potential more than ever.
These young women are, like Malala, well on their way to changing the world whether by creating clean energy and conducting research in physics. More often than not, they were inspired by a desire to help others.
1. Eesha Khare
Are you the sort of person who only remembers to charge your cell phone three minutes before you have to run out the door? 18-year-old Eesha Khare of Saratoga, California, invented the charger you’ve been waiting for. Her supercapacitor is a black, rectangular device that is small on volume but can hold so much energy that it can charge a cell phone battery in 20 to 30 seconds. For her invention, Khare won a $50,000 prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and was honored by winning one of two Young Scientist Awards.
2, Adebola Duro-Aina
Many Nigerians power their households with generators as the country’s power grid experiences routine outages; in 2009, only 50 percent of Nigerians had electricity. Adebola Duro-Aina, a Doregos Private Academy, a junior and senior secondary school in Lagos, became motivated to figure out a way to provide others with power using an alternative and safe fuel after learning that nine members of a family had died from carbon monoxide from a gas-fueled generator.
Together with Oluwatoyin Faleke, Eniola Bello and Abiola Akindele, three students from her science class, Duro-Aina created a generator that runs with urine. While it remains to be seen if the four teenagers’ “urine power” invention can be commercially produced, they must be commended for making an environmentally-friendly, low-cost energy source that runs on a highly available substance.
3. Ann Makosinski
A 15-year-old student from Victoria in British Columbia, Makosinski has created a hollow flashlight that needs no batteries — it runs on thermal energy from the human body. The teenager found that Peltier tiles (which produce electricity when they are heated on one side and cooled on the other) can produce enough power to light an LED.
After doing research about energy harvesting for months, Makosinki learned about an affordable circuit that could be used in conjunction with a transformer to generate enough voltage for the flashlight. Using an aluminum tube and a PVC tube (from Home Depot), she created two flashlights that can produce a steady beam of light for 20 minutes.
4. Samantha Marquez
17-year-old Samantha Marquez has discovered a new kind of cell structure called Celloidosome. Her discovery could lead to innovations in medical treatments (including tissue regeneration and the regeneration of whole organs such as the liver or pancreas) and also to a novel way to clean up a nuclear disaster (Celloidosome could create an artificial organism which could track radioactive heavy metals).
Marquez, who won the prize at the 2012 Intel Science and Engineering Fair for her work, says she keeps some words from her parents — nadie te quita lo vivido, “nobody takes away from you what you have already lived” — always in mind.
Read more: antibiotics, arctic, battery, biofuel, clean energy, energy, girl, girls, innovation, invention, malala, malala yousafzai, nigeria, physics, plastics, renewable energy, science, space, space travel, stem, technology, urine
Photo via carbonfibreme/Flickr
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