The World’s 50 Smartest Teens—2018
| TBS Staff
Are you ready to discover your college program?
When you hear “World’s Smartest Teen,” perhaps you imagine a young person who spends their free time hanging out in the physics lab, reading the dictionary for fun, or memorizing digits of Pi. This article profiles 50 of the world’s smartest teens. They’re homeschooled, public schooled, and private schooled, they come from all over the world. Many have won top prizes at the world’s most prestigious science fairs. Some of these teenagers were awarded recognition on “20 under 20” and “30 under 30” lists, others have given TED talks, and a few of them reject social media, defying our stereotypes of what it means to be a 21st-century teen. Other than heading to the best universities on the planet — many of them funneling into MIT at an alarming rate — what do these brilliant young people have in common?
So they’re the smartest teenagers in the world. What makes them so smart?
What makes each person on this list so smart isn’t merely their impressive academics, although those certainly don’t hurt. What sets these teens apart in the world of smarts is their astounding success. These young people are not only theoretically intelligent, but they’ve applied their smarts in myriad practical, helpful, amazing ways.
Most of these students are traditional inventors — that is to say, they create the kind of products or processes you’d imagine an inventor creating. Robotics? Check. Cures for illnesses? Yes. Medical and economical lifesavers? Absolutely. However, you could safely say that each and every student on this list is an inventor in some sense. Each of them saw a problem that troubled them enough to cause them to use their time, energy, and resources to discover — and in many cases implement — a solution. Yes, these teenagers are inventors, but perhaps more accurately and more importantly, they are problem solvers.
Can’t find a book you want to read? Write one.
Don’t see art that expresses what you feel? Create it.
Can’t find a video game that you can relate to and are challenged by? Design it.
Sure, each of these students has a remarkable brain filled with interesting, insightful ideas; many of us do. What really sets these 50 teenagers apart is their dedication, diligence, and drive. Without these elements in place, these teenagers would not be the dream-achieving, brilliant young people on this list. It’s also important to note that these students are not alone; every student profiled had a support network who rallied around them in their pursuits. Some families moved miles away from home to give their children access to the schools and programs that would provide the best foundation and greatest opportunities for their students.
Some of these teenagers found inspiration within their families, others within their communities. Many of these teens observed large-scale, chronic, global problems and — believing that they had the skills to help — refused to sit idly by and let the problems continue without attempted solutions.
The 50teens you’ll meet in the following profiles are regular kids, truly, who had big ideas, lots of passion and drive, and families who encouraged and supported them to pursue their ideas and goals wholeheartedly. These young people are not only smart but incredibly inspiring. Let’s meet them …
Adeeb Alblooshi, 13
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
The most recognized and celebrated inventor to hail from the UAE happens to be a teenager, but he already has a long history with science, mechanics, and inventing technologies to better society.
At the tender age of 6, Adeeb was inspired to create a device for his polio-ridden father to enable him to go swimming in spite of his prosthetic leg, fashioning a waterproof alternative with an enhanced medical wax coating. He then moved on to creating a small robot to assist his mother with household chores. It wasn’t long before the country took notice of the young inventor. With the government’s supervision and funding, he’s since developed five more inventions, including a seatbelt that monitors a passenger’s heart rate and sends an immediate alert to authorities if their heart reaches a dangerous rate.
In 2015, Adeeb toured internationally with the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology to attend conferences, meet researchers, and participate in a space camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. He’s been called one of the world’s most impressive young medical pioneers by CNN and received the UN Information Centre’s Award of Excellence. Adeeb, a member of the Arab Robotics Association, is considered the youngest Arab inventor in the field of robotics, with more than 60 certificates of achievements to his name.
Shubham Banerjee, 16
It all started with a school science project when then-12-year-old Shubham Banerjee used his Lego bricks to build a braille printer. With this inventive creation, he made computing more affordable for millions of people with vision problems and Braigo — a blend of braille and Lego — was born. Braigo took the world by surprise as the world’s first low-cost, silent, portable, and IOT-enabled printer and its creator, Belgian-born Shubham, became the youngest entrepreneur to receive venture capital funding for Braigo Labs, the company he launched soon after receiving attention for his innovation.
Not only did Braigo catch the attention of Intel, but it also led to multiple awards for innovation. Braigo is featured regularly around the world via news sources including CNN, NBC, ABC, PBS, NPR, CBC, BBC, and Discovery.
These days, Braigo works to create innovative, alternative solutions to expensive products. The final version of the Braigo printer is currently under development.
Even though he’s one of the smartest and most successful teenagers in the world and is a highly sought-after speaker and presenter, Shubham Banerjee manages to lead a normal lifestyle. He lives in Santa Clara, California with his parents and younger sister. Shubham, in addition to being a startup founder, somehow finds time to play as quarterback for Santa Clara High School, where he’ll graduate from in 2019.
Harley Bird, 16
Tring, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom
There’s more to the beloved voice of television’s Peppa Pig than just a sweet sound and engaging British accent.
Harley Bird, who has provided the vocal talent to England’s most popular piggie for seasons 3–5 of Peppa Pig, became the youngest winner of the British Academy Film Award ever in 2011 for her work as the voice artist for Peppa Pig. Two years later, she received a nomination for “Most Promising Newcomer” at the British Independent Film Awards.
Currently, Harley plays the Sammy, the lead in the Disney Channel’s webisode series So Sammy. Harley attended Tring Park School for the Performing Arts as well as Pipers Corner School and has told Newsday that she plans to pursue acting or costume design in the future.
Henry Burner, 14
Carnation, Washington, USA
Who could have guessed that an elementary school social studies project would lead to a thriving business — especially while the innovator and owner hasn’t graduated from high school yet? While Henry Burner’s fourth-grade class was studying frontier trading posts, students in the class used beads to buy items handmade by their classmates. Henry decided to put his mom’s old hand-operated button-making equipment to use so he could make buttons for the project.
Henry found himself bitten by the button bug (or perhaps more accurately, the business bug). He eventually began selling his buttons at local farmers markets and moved up to selling on Amazon. He began to add other products to his Buttonsmith, Inc. line, including magnets, lanyards, and Tinker Reels, his newest product that features badge reels with swappable tops.
Making buttons with that system proved time-consuming and Henry started trying to figure out ways to make the method more efficient. By the time he was 14, he received his first patent for the Tinker Reel, a customized attachment system. Henry worked with another company, Key-Bak, to make the front of the buttons magnetic and thus interchangeable and customizable.
Henry’s company is thriving; he has nine employees working for him now — and they’re all adults.
Grace Bush, 17
There aren’t too many teenagers who graduate from high school and college at the same time, but Grace Bush is one of the few whose resume boasts that impressive accomplishment.
Grace received her high school diploma and bachelor’s degree in the same week. While she was busy completing her high school coursework and playing flute in two ensembles, Grace also completed an undergraduate degree in criminal justice from Florida Atlantic University (FAU).
The dual enrollment program permitted her to earn college course credit while finishing her high school diploma — all without the typically high price tag of undergraduate education. Grace wisely took advantage of the program and began taking courses at Broward College when she turned 13; she also took classes in the summer to help her reach her goal of graduating from college early.
The Sunshine State teenager, who pursued a minor in Spanish in addition to her major in criminal justice, finished college with a 3.8 GPA. Grace continued her graduate work at FAU, serving as a graduate assistant and earning a master’s degree in Public Administration from the university in 2017. At present, she is tutoring math students and preparing to take the LSAT.
Keiana Cave, 19
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
When she was just 15 years old, Keiana Cave started her own independent research on the BP oil spill with a focus on nanotechnology at the University of New Orleans. Before her research, the methods used to clean up oil spills did not consider the carcinogens, so Keiana invented a carcinogen-fighting molecule. Keiana developed, patented, and published a method that the EPA now uses to detect toxins during oil spills and subsequently transferred to a lab at Tulane — and she accomplished all of this while most other teenagers her age were worried about getting their driver’s licenses or who they’d invite to prom.
Recognized for her work at Tulane, Keiana went on to earn 2nd place (out of 2,600) at the 2015 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Other honors include being named on the Forbes “30 Under 30” list in 2017 and receiving the United States Air Force Certificate of Achievement. In addition, the MIT Lincoln Laboratory and NASA named an asteroid — the orbiting rock 2000 GD136 — “Keianacave,” after the young scientist. Keiana was the youngest-ever participant in MIT’s Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, where she developed a molecule that could become the world’s next dominant oil spill dispersant.
Keiana Cave raised $1.2 million in funding from Chevron to continue her research on the carcinogen-fighting molecule she invented and launched a start-up, Mare, that seeks to invent molecules to solve problems.
Keiana is currently a sophomore at the University of Michigan studying chemical engineering and she interned at Intel Corporation in the summer of 2017. She is also a brand representative for Lululemon and Francesca’s, advertising their clothing through her social media posts.
Helena Coggan, 18
In 2015, Helena Coggan received acclaim from the literary scene with her novel The Catalyst. Helena’s book received raving reviews and wide recognition, for its content, but also because the author of the book was still just a teenager herself.
Helena always wanted to be a writer, and she embarked on that dream when she was 13 years old by grabbing her dad’s laptop and plugging away. The Catalyst was published just two years later.
Her second writing project, The War of the Angels series, debuted in 2017, which Helena promoted on a book tour. She is currently studying physics at Cambridge University and in the process of editing her third book in the series.
Marley Dias, 13
Marley Dias has loved books ever since she learned how to read. She looked forward to reading the books her teachers handed out at school, but she soon grew tired of finding book after book focused on white male protagonists and occasionally the said main character’s pets. As a young black female, Marley wanted to find characters she could relate to and identify with. At the age of 11, Marley set out on a mission to collect and donate 1,000 books that featured black women and girls as the main characters.
Not only was she able to achieve her goal, she surpassed it, collecting more than 10,000 books with black female protagonists. Marley’s #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign launched a movement that led her all the way to the White House’s United State of Women Summit.
Marley was named on the Forbes “30 under 30” list in 2017 and received the Smithsonian Magazine’s American Ingenuity Award the same month. Her book, Marley Dias Gets It Done (And So Can You!), debuted in January 2018.
Charlie Fenske, 18
Edgartown, Massachusetts, US
When Charlie Fenske was growing up on the island of Martha’s Vineyard and taking a ferry to the mainland to school every day, he’d come home and begin building his own amateur rockets. What started as a simple interest in space and rockets as a young child turned into a passion that led Charlie to space camp, rocket launches, and, eventually, the winner’s stage at the Google Science Fair.
The Falmouth Academy student and Eagle Scout won the Virgin Galactic Pioneer Award, the top engineering prize at the esteemed event in 2016 for his prototype of a faster and cheaper rocket. Charlie went on to earn the second place engineering prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and top honors at the 2017 Massachusetts State Science and Engineering Fair. He spent last summer interning at the Kennedy Space Center.
Charlie graduates from high school this year and will be attending MIT in the fall as a member of MIT’s class of 2022. He plans to major in aerospace engineering and obtain a Ph.D. Other future aspirations include launching his own commercial aerospace company.
Mihir Garimella, 17
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Tuning an instrument by ear is something even skilled, professional musicians sometimes struggle to do. Ten-year-old Mihir Garimella heard his music teacher repeatedly complain that his violin was out of tune, so he invented the Robo-Mozart to analyze the sounds of the instrument, determine which strings are out of tune, and turn the tuning pegs with motors. This was the first of several projects that helped Mihir realize that he could use robotics to improve issues faced in daily life.
By the time he was 14, Mihir had invented Flybot, a small, relatively inexpensive emergency response drone that led him to win first place in his age group at the 2015 Google Science Fair. The invention propelled Mihir into dedicated work around creating low-cost flying robots for search and rescue and emergency response. Mihir is also working to commercialize the robotics research he’s done, both independently and in labs at CMU and MIT.
Mihir, who has won top prizes at the Intel ISEF and various media awards, is also the founder and organizer of FCHacks. He is currently wrapping up his first year at Stanford University.
Autumn Greco, 19
New York, New York, USA
Autumn Greco is a teen scientist, model, blogger, and writer. She began modeling at the age of 8, learning about professionalism at an early age. Autumn is an advocate for female empowerment and for girls to enter STEM-related fields. She is also the founder of SciStrut, a fashion and STEM blog that offers daily outfit inspiration and functions as a platform to encourage girls to explore STEM careers.
Autumn is also interested in cancer research, considering herself an aspiring oncologist. She received a stipend to conduct acute myeloid leukemia research from the National Cancer Institute as well as a research sponsorship from L’Oreal from a previous L’Oreal For Women in Science postdoctoral fellow to develop biochemistry lab techniques.
Currently a sophomore at Stanford University, Autumn is majoring in science, technology, and society, with a focus on bioengineering. This year, the future oncologist began research on cancer diagnostics.
Ruth Ama Gyan-Darkwa, 14
Ruth Ama Gyan-Darkwa is the youngest student ever accepted to Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. She is a member of the class of 2021, anticipating a college graduation at the age of 17.
She studied General Science at St. Louis Senior High School in Kumasi where she gained admission at the age of 10 after writing the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) in the first year of junior high school. Despite being four years younger than her classmates, Ruth completed her senior high school education with superior grades, granting her admission into one of Ghana’s prestigious universities.
Ruth plans to obtain a B.S. degree in mathematics. One of eight children, she lives with her family on the campus of Prempeh College Senior High School where her father teaches physics. When she completes this degree, Ruth aspires to pursue another bachelor’s degree in computer science or space engineering so that she can contribute to Ghana’s space challenge.
Olivia Hallisey, 19
Greenwich, Connecticut, USA
When Olivia Hallisey heard about the Ebola outbreak in Africa back in 2014, she was determined to help by coming up with a diagnostic tool that would be easier to take and administer, with the assumption that early diagnosis was crucial to slowing or stopping the disease’s rate of growth. The technique she developed — the Ebola Assay — requires no refrigeration or special medical training to administer. It’s also portable and quick, providing results within a half hour. For her work, Olivia was named grand prize winner of the 2015 International Google Science Fair.
Time named Olivia as one of the most influential teens of the year in 2015 and the World Economic Forum listed her as one of the “Four Girls Who Are Changing the World.” She was also chosen to be a presenter at the White House Science Fair.
Most recently, the Stanford University student developed the Lyme Assay Card to help diagnose Lyme disease earlier. She is continuing her research on how this may have broader applications.
Hannah Herbst, 17
Boca Raton, Florida, USA
Like many young inventors, Hannah Herbst was inspired to invent a solution to a problem. Hannah was driven to help her 9-year-old pen pal, who lived in Sub-Saharan Africa, where a large portion of the population continues to live in energy poverty with little access to electricity.
Hannah managed to create a device that captures energy from ocean waves — an ocean energy probe prototype. Her invention is called BEACON, which stands for Bringing Electricity Access to Countries through Ocean Energy. She is open sourcing the project and intends to deploy the system in areas that suffer from energy poverty and can utilize BEACON to power water purification and medical equipment.
Her scientific prowess and invention have led to multiple achievements and honors, including being named “America’s Top Young Scientist” in 2015 and delivering keynote speeches at the Social Innovation Summit, National Science Olympiad Competition, Discovery Education Leadership Conference, and the United Nations STI Forum. Hannah has presented research at the 2016 White House Science Fair, the United State of Women at the White House, and the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
Hannah attends Florida Atlantic University High School, where she plays varsity soccer. She also participated in the Ivy League Summer Academy at Yale on a full scholarship. Although she won’t graduate from FAUHS until 2019, she is fully enrolled at Florida Atlantic University as a computer engineering major.
Geneva Heyward, 17
Corona, New York, USA
People tend to enjoy relatable characters, whether in a book, a film, or a television show. Geneva Hayward, a young game designer, decided to apply this same principle to video games, working to create relatable and interesting characters. Seventeen-year-old Geneva decided to create a main character that would spend their time doing common, everyday tasks, and her Green Hero was born.
Geneva was always interested in video games, and she found herself inspired to take her game design work to the next level after attending NYU’s Future Game Designer’s program. Green Hero is a game that seeks to foster ecological responsibility while engaging younger generations. The game was recognized in the 2017 Games for Change Student Challenge (Grand Prize Winner Runner-Up) and received the High School Unity title in the 2017 National STEM Video Game Challenge.
Passionate about video game design, Geneva attended Savannah College of Art & Design’s Summer Seminar and enrolled in the School of Interactive Arts Pre-College program. She hopes to pursue undergraduate study in game design and become an indie game developer.
Kimora Hudson, 13
Douglasville, Georgia, USA
Most preschoolers are practicing their ABCs and working on basic math concepts, but that wasn’t the case for Kimora Hudson. When she was preschool-aged, Kimora was already working on second-grade curriculum. By the time she was a second grader, her mother enrolled her in a variety of fast-track programs, such as Duke’s Talent Identification Program and Vanderbilt’s Summer Academy, all of which are aimed at students in secondary schools.
Kimora Hudson took the ACT exam when she was in seventh grade and enrolled at the University of West Georgia (UWG) two years later. At the University of West Georgia, she was permitted to sign up for the dual enrollment track intended for high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors.
The young brainiac, also a Young Mensa candidate, is slated to receive her high school diploma in two years — that same year she’ll be in her junior year at UWG.
Kimora is currently an undeclared major, however, she still has a few semesters left before she has to choose a major. Kimora hopes to work in a scientific field such as marine biology, veterinary science, surgery, or psychology. At 13, she still has plenty of time to figure it out.
Kenneth Jiao, 17
Indian Springs, Alabama, USA
When Kenneth Jiao’s mom was diagnosed with a tumor in her breast, the Jiao family worried. Although hers was a benign tumor, the experience of waiting for the pathology report was understandably nerve-wracking, and Kenneth decided to research ways to stop breast cancer from ever occurring.
Breast cancer deaths often occur because of metastasis, the spreading of malignant cells to other organs, like the bones, lungs, or brain. Kenneth’s work revealed that the gene CHD7 plays a role in combating metastasis, the spreading of malignant cells. His data collectively suggests that retaining CHD7 in the nucleus may serve as an effective therapeutic strategy to inhibit breast cancer metastasis. He presented his study, “Retain CHD7, and Epigenetic Regulator, in the Nucleus to Combat Breast Cancer Metastasis" at the 2017 Siemens Competition and became a National Finalist.
Winning the $25,000 scholarship prize was icing on the cake for Kenneth. The young scientist is onto big things; scientists and researchers regard his work in cancer research as groundbreaking.
While the Siemens Competition provided Kenneth with a large platform, it certainly wasn’t his first science fair. As the founder of his school’s Science Olympiad team, Kenneth led the team to place third at the Intel ISEF. He also attended the 2016 Summer Science Institute at UAB.
Shriank Kanaparti, 18
As is the case for many young children, Shriank Kanaparti developed his passion for tinkering with Lego bricks. Unlike most children, however, Shriank didn’t cast aside his Legos in pursuit of other toys. Instead, he took his brick building to another level: the finals at the First Lego League World Championship in 2012, as well as a number of other international robotics competitions.
Shriank’s interest in coding and engineering increased, as did his skills. He pursued the idea that we can and should build products that are simple, original, and solve everyday problems. This belief, along with his research on memory-related illnesses, led him to create a wearable device that keeps track of static objects. When used in conjunction with a smartphone, KeepTab allows users to find “lost” objects with 90% accuracy. Shriank’s invention is groundbreaking for its ability to help those with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other issues that result in memory to enhance and improve their quality of life. For his work, Shriank, who attended National Public School in Bangalore, India, was a Google Science Fair finalist in 2016.
Shriank is a member of Harvard University’s Class of 2021 and is a member of the Harvard Robotics Club. He sees himself becoming an engineer who contributes to the field of medicine, and he still attributes his skills as a maker, designer, and developer to Legos.
Andrew Komo, 18
Bethesda, Maryland, USA
Does it come as any surprise that that 2017 Grand Prize Winner of the Siemens Competition started working on difficult puzzles at the age of 3? Or that he developed an interest in cryptography as soon as he learned what the word meant? Or that he was able to solve the puzzle over security and integrity of auction?
Andrew Komo, a senior at Bethesda’s Montgomery Blair High School (MBHS), developed a cryptographic protocol designed to protect online bidding from fraud by keeping bidders’ offers completely private from all other parties. The premise is this: once the auction closes, cryptographic information is revealed so that bidders and auctioneers can both ensure that the auction has run correctly. For his work on “Cryptographically Secure Proxy Bidding in Ascending Clock Auctions,” Andrew was awarded the top $100,000 prize in the individual competition. Andrew’s system, when put in place, will assist large-scale auctions that manage billions of dollars of transactions with more transparency, fairness, and security.
In addition to being a young inventor, Andrew was a finalist in the 2017 Moody’s Mega Math Challenge, a national team-based math modeling competition, and came in third in the 2016 High School Forensics Challenge, one of the largest high school cybersecurity events. He is also the captain of the MBHS computer team.
Anah Lewi, 19
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Ever since she was a little girl, going online and surfing the web was a major part of Anah Lewi’s everyday life, whether she was doing schoolwork or socializing with friends. Anah more than enjoyed technology, she developed a genuine passion for it. Thus, she set out to find ways to learn more about the field that she loved.
After spending seven weeks at the AT&T office in Manhattan and learning to code through the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program, she continued her pursuit of knowledge but interning at AOL for the Cambio website. Anah interned with Build By Girls, which gave her a glimpse at another aspect of the tech world: philanthropy through teaching.
Following her high school graduation, Anah Lewi, the class valedictorian, worked with two other AOL interns to launch Pixie Hacks, a hackathon that aims to educate and empower female high school students to enter tech fields.
She is currently wrapping up her sophomore year at Wellesley College, where she majors in computer science, serves on the Executive Board for the Wellesley College Computer Science Club, and coordinates WHACK, Wellesley’s hackathon.
Aaron Lin, 19
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Travel is a huge source of inspiration for many, whether artist, musician, activist, or an ordinary person bitten by the travel bug. Young Canadian Aaron Lin is no different in this regard. He is, however, different from the rest of us in that it just took one trip to a small village in the Dominican Republic for him to change the entire course of his life.
Aaron, who already knew he wanted to study molecular genetics and infectious diseases, traveled with World Vision Canada to build a house for a family in need. On this trip, the budding scientist couldn’t help but notice the vast number of people suffering from skin infections. Lin’s experience heightened his interest in the various factors that affect the world’s healthcare and accessibility issues.
Upon his return home to North America, Aaron established a Calgary Youth Committee for World Vision International and now oversees this committee where youth congregate to generate an impact in the world.
Aaron secured a research internship with the University of Calgary in his junior year of high school. He graduated from high school in 2015 and was named in Plan Canada’s “Top 20 Under 20” the same year. He serves as a Youth Ambassador at Canadian Blood Services and is currently pursuing a B.S. at Queen’s University, majoring in life sciences with the intent to become a clinician.
Michelle Marquez, 19
Midlothian, Virginia, USA
Michelle Marquez was raised in a home that celebrated imagination and embraced questions. Her thirst for knowledge about the science behind beauty coupled with her questions about the dimensionality of the intangible led her to research just what it was, exactly, about music that affected people’s emotions. She discovered that music, and some sounds found in nature, have a mathematical complexity that could be responsible for triggering specific emotions and that understanding the origin of these effects could have a variety of applications. The abstract of her research states that the study provides a fundamental understanding to advance the fields of biomathematics, emotional research, and music therapy.
Michelle was a 2013 Broadcom MASTERS semi-finalist, a 2014 Intel ISEF finalist, and a 2015 Intel ISEF finalist. In 2015, she was also inducted into the National Gallery for America’s Young Inventors. During her junior year at Clover Hill High School, she received the Best Student Film Award at the Fine Arts Film Festival in Venice, CA for her film “The Emotional Dimensions of the James River.”
Michelle is currently finishing her first year at Middlebury College where she plans to further her study of human emotions and feeling with a major in psychology and literature.
Maanasa Mendu, 15
When she was 13 years old, Maanasa Mendu invented an energy-harvesting device that converts sunlight, wind, and rain into renewable energy. To have created and developed a global game-changing device at such a young age is impressive in itself, but there’s something even more significant about Maanasa’s invention: the device only costs $5 USD.
Maanasa Mendu’s affordable and groundbreaking device was inspired by what she witnessed on her annual family visits to India. After seeing so many people suffer from a lack of clean water and electricity, she came home and decided to do something about the challenges of energy scarcity.
Maanasa was inspired by watching tree branches sway in the wind — she noticed that the movement looked like piezoelectric materials (tiny devices that generate power through vibration). That inspiration, along with three months of research, diligence, and working with a mentor, led her to develop the renewable energy gadget.
The Mason High School (MHS) student was named the winner of the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, receiving the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist” along with a $25,000 prize to further her work. Maanasa gave her first TED talk in December 2017, was named as one of Teen Vogue’s “21 Under 21,” and The Mars Gen “24 Under 24,” and she won’t even graduate from MHS until 2020. Let’s keep an eye on her work and where this brilliant student chooses to go for her college education.
Kristián Mensa, 19
Prague, Czech Republic
Kristián Mensa, like many, views art as a one-of-a-kind way to express oneself. What sets him apart, then? You could say he’s essentially the living, walking, talking visual artist that embodies Pablo Neruda’s Ode to Common Things since he uses everyday objects to remind people that the beauty of art is everywhere and for everyone. He draws from overlooked objects and from a minimalist point of view in an attempt to project more of the beauty that surrounds him.
Kristián — or Mr. Kriss, as he is also known — is famous for humanizing architecture and layering colorful, tangible objects atop his simple drawings. His work and point of view came to the attention of the Huffington Post, where he appeared in their “20 Under 20” list of gifted young innovators, as well as the 100 Faces of Impact in 2017.
The whimsical young artist lives in Prague, where he works as an illustrator and dancer.
Gabriel Mesa, 17
Hartford, Connecticut, USA
Gabriel Mesa refers to himself as “a serial inventor who inspires to do social good by harnessing free energy.” Currently a senior at Canton High School, Gabriel has been taking college math and engineering classes at the University of New Haven and University of Hartford since 2015. He is inspired by piezoelectrics, so it’s no surprise that his Carbon Battery (a biodegradable motion powered energy source) and his Stimuped (a diabetic neuropathy treatment) are piezo-powered.
Gabriel’s inventions have been featured at the White House Science Fair, National Invention Convention/Entrepreneurship Expo, Xprize Competition, and Discovery/3M Young Scientist Challenge. This young scientist’s awards list rivals any professor’s CV. Most recently, he was named on the Forbes “30 Under 30” list.
Gabriel, who is also the founder of Mesa Foundry and serves on the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Invention Convention, is currently commercializing his inventions and seeking next step mentorship in fabrication and distribution.
Anushka Naiknaware, 14
Portland, Oregon, USA
Anushka Naiknaware has been participating in science fairs since kindergarten. By the time she was 13 years old, then-middle schooler Anushka Naiknaware was the youngest winner of any Google Science Fair event, taking home the Lego Education Builder Award in 2016. Her prize included a $15K scholarship, a trip to the Lego world headquarters in Denmark, and one full year of entrepreneurship mentoring from a Lego executive.
The Lego award goes to “a student who uses an innovative, hands-on approach to solve some of the greatest engineering challenges.” After competing in a science competition, Anushka was inspired to explore nanoparticles, an essential component of the project that she presented at the GSF. Anushka’s work focused on a solution for chronic wound care, a frequently overlooked medical issue. She created a sensor that helps doctors analyze the state of a wound without removing its dressing; therefore, the doctors know when it’s the right time to change the bandage. Her project, “Smart Wound Care for the Future,” features a biocompatible nanotech bandage that can be built inexpensively.
This invention has the capacity to assist those suffering from chronic wounds to heal faster, and Anushka is working with her entrepreneurship mentor to find a way for the FDA to approve her bandages, with an ultimate hope for wide-scale production and distribution. She is also working on a different project to help combat homelessness through fund distribution.
Anushka’s future plans include attending MIT, Harvard, or Stanford and winning a Nobel Prize.
Nikhil Gopal, 18
Lawrenceville, New Jersey, USA
Nikhil Gopal has an aunt, living in a rural part of India, who almost died from an aggressive form of malaria in 2015. While his aunt received basic care, her physician didn’t have access to labs that would help diagnose the effectiveness of her medications or the amount of the parasite in her bloodwork. This life-threatening situation inspired Nikhal to develop an affordable solution for necessary testing.
Nikhil got to work. Building on basic principles of enzyme analysis, he constructed a blood test for determining malaria levels. His test only requires a smartphone and materials that cost less than 50dollars, the test does not require the use of a laboratory or substantial electricity.
For this research and work, which he presented at the 2016 Intel ISEF as “Point of Care Testing for Malaria Using a Smartphone and a Microfluidic ELISA Chip,” he won second place, a monetary prize, and the honor of having an asteroid named after him as part of the Ceres Connection at MIT’s Lincoln Lab.
The Lawrenceville School student will receive his high school diploma in the spring of 2018. He is currently talking with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation about developing a plan to distribute his malaria testing solution worldwide.
Kiara Nirghin, 16
Johannesburg, South Africa
Sometimes you hand a child a simple science experiment with the hopes of keeping them entertained for an afternoon or even just an hour. When Kiara Nirghin was experimenting with vinegar and baking soda as a child, it provided her with more than a fun thing to do: it caused a love for science, experimentation, and problem-solving. In 2015, this teenage girl from Johannesburg, South Africa won the $50,000 grand prize at the Google Science Fair for her innovation that all stemmed from a simple orange peel.
Kiara developed her project in response to the worst drought that South Africa had seen in over 30 years. Eight of the country’s nine provinces suffered a state of disaster with thousands of communities and millions of households facing water shortages. The drought also had an incredibly adverse effect on the region’s agriculture, causing the country’s crops to fail and its animals to die.
Kiara’s submission focused on fighting drought with fruit. She used an orange people to develop an inexpensive and superabsorbent material to help the soil retain water. Her project, titled “No More Thirsty Crops,” provides an alternative to pricey and non-biodegradable super-absorbent polymers (SAPs), making huge strides in affordability for South Africa’s agribusiness. By using orange peel and avocado skins, Kiara invented a SAP that could store water reserves weighing hundreds of times its weight. It is also recyclable and biodegradable.
Kiara plans to test water filtration and oil removal from water with the orange peel SAP and make large amounts of the SAP available to poorer farming communities in South Africa. The high school student aspires to become an agricultural scientist and molecular gastronomist.
Krtin Nithiyanandam, 17
Surrey, United Kingdom
One of Britain’s most renowned scientists and inventors also happens to be a high school student. Krtin Nithiyanandam was the 2015 Scientific American Innovator at the Google Science Fair, awarded for his development of a test that can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease up to 10 years before any symptoms appear.
Two years later, Krtin’s research on treating triple-negative breast cancer led him to discover a way to block a protein that turns this particular kind of breast cancer into one that can respond to drugs instead of other current, more invasive attempts at treatment. His work on making a previously and otherwise hard-to-treat cancer into one that is more treatable led him to win the Intermediate Science stream at the Big Bang Fair. Krtin also represented the United Kingdom at the International Stockholm Junior Water Prize and received the UK Junior Water Prize for an entirely different project: “A novel, photocatalytic, lead-sequestering bioplastic for sustainable water purification and environmental remediation.”
Krtin, who previously enjoyed playing squash in his free time, suffered an injury that led him away from the squash courts and into the lab. The young scientist is contemplating a career in one of three fields — medicine, research, or computer science — or perhaps he will pursue work that combines all three interests.
Ethan Novek, 19
Greenwich, Connecticut, USA
Perhaps you’ve experienced the thoughtful daydreaming that occurs after spending a relaxing day on the beach, but did it lead you to a position in an Ivy League research lab?
As he told National Geographic, Ethan Novek was simply digging a hole in the sand at a beach one day when he noticed something that got him thinking — the seawater that seeped into the hole was rising at the same rate as the tides offshore. This caused Ethan to wonder: what if that seepage could be harnessed for energy in wells onshore, rather than out in the trickier ocean environment? This idea, accompanied by a series of experiments performed after his musings on the beach brought him to a research lab at Yale University.
Known as the teenage inventor who could change the way the world fights climate change, Ethan has been working on a technology that could slow down global warming. Even though the world seems to have plenty of CO2 floating around, this fossil fuel isn’t easy to extract the compound on a wide, commercial scale. Ethan has been working on technology that would allow the world to burn fossil fuels without the climate-changing emissions, allowing us to carry on as we have been, without doing as much damage, until we develop more sustainable alternatives. With his technology, CO2 would be buried deep underground or recycled into a useful product.
Ethan’s work and research on cleaning up fossil fuels led him to start his own company, Innovator Energy. The company works to develop products and technologies that increase the standard of living while decreasing resource consumption and pollution by capturing and utilizing carbon dioxide, the world’s largest waste product.
Among other honors, Ethan has seven patents, was a semi-finalist in the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPrize, and was named to the Forbes list of “30 Under 30” in 2018. The chemical engineering major at Yale has also been featured in National Geographic.
Esther Okade, 13
Walsall, United Kingdom
When Esther Okade was just 3 years old, she began doing quadratic equations. She spent the next seven years being homeschooled, and then when she was 10 years old, she became one of the youngest college students in the history of the UK by attending the Open University. Three years later, at the age of 13, Esther is about to receive her Ph.D. in financial mathematics from the same school.
Esther has authored a series of math workbooks for children — Yummy Yummy Algebra — but she is determined to give back to society even more. The daughter of a native Nigerian, Esther, alongside her mom, has developed a curriculum for a proposed preschool in the country’s Delta area. The “Shakespeare Academy” will teach morality and ethics, public speaking, entrepreneurship, and etiquette, as well as the basics of reading, writing, math, and science. The school plans to serve more than two thousand children.
In addition to her philanthropic efforts focused on education, the soon-to-be Dr. Okade plans to open, operate, and own her own bank within the next two years. (That’s before the age of 16, for anyone doing the math.)
Annie Ostojic, 15
Munster, Indiana, USA
Microwave cooking was all the rage in the 1980s, but it seems like nobody’s been spending much time celebrating the concept of microwaves since then. Except for Annie Ostojic, that is.
Annie, who enjoyed being in the kitchen and doing what she called “kitchen science” as a child, is an innovator, research, and student from Munster, Indiana. Annie has invented a better microwave oven as well as a system to collect solar power from indoor lighting to use for charging hearing aid batteries. Her microwave invention features a cavity design that uses cylindrical parabolic reflectors to cook food completely while saving energy at the same time.
Annie created this design in 2015 when she was an eighth-grader at Wilbur Wright Middle School. For her work, Annie was named the Grand Prize Winner and the top middle school science student in the USA at the Broadcom MASTERS and received a $25K prize from the Samueli Foundation. The then-middle schooler was also taking college chemistry courses through Brigham Young University. In addition, Annie qualified for the INTEL science fair as a high school freshman in 2017, one of 14 delegates from Indiana and a finalist.
The young inventor currently has two patents pending and has met former President Obama twice at the White House. She plans to attend college and study engineering in the medical field.
Valerio Pagliarino, 18
Castelnuovo Calcea, Italy
Growing up in a rural area in the digital age can be a challenge whether you live in the mountains of Virginia or in a small Italian town. Such was the case for Valerio Pagliarino, who grew up in Italy’s Piedmont region and found himself frequently frustrated with the subpar Internet connectivity in his hometown. He felt that he was at a disadvantage and that the problem became more difficult over time as newer technologies required increased bandwidth.
Instead of merely complaining about the issue, Valerio took action. He invented a small laser-based, high-speed network that could take advantage of existing infrastructure to deliver better Internet connectivity to remote areas.
Valerio won first prize in the European Union’s Contest For Young Scientists in 2016 for his project titled “LaserWAN: Laser Broadband Internet Connection.” He also received an Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award and $50K for his innovation. Valerio hopes to patent the product and bridge the gap that exists between those with internet access and those without.
Tristan Pang, 16
Auckland, New Zealand
By the time that Tristan Pang was two years old, he could read and do math on a high school level, the stuff child prodigies are known for. When he was just 9 years old, Tristan, currently a resident of New Zealand but born in the UK, took the Year 11-level Cambridge International Exam in Math and earned the highest grade possible on the test. He took the Year 13-level test two years later, scoring an A, and delivered a TED talk the next year. He was only 11 years old at the time.
Tristan’s parents decided to move the family to New Zealand to help support and advance Tristan’s educational opportunities. At the age of 12, Tristan enrolled at the University of Auckland (UA) as a full-time student, making him the university’s youngest pupil and youngest undergraduate researcher ever. Tristan served as president of the university’s math club last year, as a 15-year-old.
Out of a desire to help others succeed in their studies, Tristan founded a free online learning website (Tristan’s Learning Hub) to teach math and other science topics to students of all ages. He also began I producing his own podcasts and radio shows, including Youth Voices with Tristan Pang, on Planet FM radio.
He was a panelist at the World Science Festival in Brisbane, Australia in March 2017. Some of Tristan’s projects as an undergraduate researcher in UA’s Photon Factory involve investigating how light interacts with graphene in the ultrashort pulse region and also modeling and observing the properties of titanium dioxide. Tristan will receive his B.S. in math and physics in spring 2018. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. and, if all goes as planned, he will be Dr. Pang by the time he turns 21. The future Dr. Pang aspires to help build a better New Zealand as a mathematician and scientist.
Ben Pasternak, 18
Vaucluse, New South Wales, Australia
Sometimes referred to as “Mark Zuckerberg 2.0,” Ben Pasternak is the boy behind the ever-popular app, Impossible Rush. The game has been downloaded more than 1.3 million times, pushing Ben into techie stardom at 15 years old, before he was even old enough to drive a car. Though Ben’s story is extraordinary, it’s also relatable. Nearly all of us have experienced sitting in a science class and feeling bored out of our minds. In this situation, you might try to abate the boredom by dreaming up a game you wish were playing instead of sitting in class. That’s pretty much how Ben created his first, highly successful, mobile game. His follow up game, Impossible Dial, achieved equally amazing success.
Ben found quick success, which led him to secure nearly two million dollars from Silicon Valley investors, drop out of the tenth grade, move to Manhattan, and launch his own startup, Flogg. By gaining funding and launching Flogg, Ben became the youngest CEO ever funded by Silicon Valley venture capitalists. Flogg is a social networking app that leverages the Facebook app so that people can sell their unwanted items to other people they already know or are connected to on the social media platform. He also co-founded the social video app company, Monkey.
Ben success was recognized by Crain’s New York Business Magazine, named on their list of “20 Under 20.” He was also recognized by Time Magazine as a Most Influential Teen of 2016.
Currently, Ben is traveling through India to gain inspiration for the next project.
Peyton Robertson, 16
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA
Driven by his parents’ advice to find solutions for problems rather than complaining about them, Peyton Robertson began inventing when he was 8 years old and he hasn’t stopped. It comes as no surprise that when 12-year-old Peyton observed the ongoing issue of flooding during his area’s hurricane season, he began building a better sandbag to alleviate the problem.
His lightweight, intuitively-designed, and reusable invention, the Sandless Operational Sandbag, came in first place at the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge that year and made him the contest’s youngest-ever winner. While this was his first big win, it wasn’t his first innovation: he also invented a canister that maintains a golf ball’s resting temperature and retractable training wheels to help his sisters learn to ride bikes.
The now-16-year-old student was just named the 2017–18 National Stem Education Award Recipient, which recognizes an individual who exemplifies excellence in the theoretical and practical STEM education fields and who has meaningfully promoted STEM education. He is also the Grand Prize Winner in the National Science Foundation’s Science Challenge, a Bevan Scholar, and a Davidson Scholar. Peyton founded a STEM education-focused nonprofit, The Multiplied Foundation.
Peyton, who has been named America’s Top Young Scientist, has five granted patents and nine other patents pending. His inventions have been featured on the ABC World News, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, TED, and recognized at the White House Science Fair. He will graduate from Stanford Online High School in 2020.
Zain Samdani, 17
Riydah, Saudi Arabia
Zain Samdani describes himself as “a millennial with a drive towards making the impossible possible through innovation.” That drive brought him to the Google Science Fair, where he was a Global Finalist in 2016.
Zain developed an interest in robotics when he was a little boy and he always had an interest in helping others. He began to wonder what he could to do help people who suffered from lost motor function. Could he improve their physical therapy and rehabilitation by applying his knowledge of robotics? As he wondered, another question emerged: could an exoskeletal robot retrain a patient’s brain to develop new pathways and completely recover or improve their motor skills? Zain was determined to find out.
Using the human hand for inspiration, Zain designed a tool for patients who dealt with arm immobility. He developed an exoskeletal robotic glove that mimics the movement of a sensor hand. After testing, he found that his own motor skills in the “learning” hand appeared to be improved after use. Featuring a design that’s lightweight and completely customizable to the wearer’s hands, Zain believes his “ExoHeal” device can help physically disabled patients around the world navigate more easily through life.
Zain’s other achievements include placing as a finalist in Sony Creative Science Award Program in 2012, winning the Best International Performing Award in India’s biggest Robotics Championship, and receiving a second place prize at the CBSE Cluster Meet Science Projects for the Saudi Arabia Chapter.
Zain, who is fluent in five languages, will graduate this year from Al Yasmin International School.
Elliott Sarrey, 17
Elliott Sarrey grew up watching his grandmother spend endless hours in her vegetable garden, but he knew that most people didn’t have an extra eight hours a week to tend their gardens. He also knew a slew of people who spent a lot of time playing gardening simulators, like the popular game Farmville.
This observation made him wonder: how could people tend their gardens to achieve great results while spending less time taking care of them? Could he mix the idea of the gardening game with the fun of having real vegetables to eat? Elliot had the idea to create a robot to take on cumbersome gardening tasks, controlled by a smartphone, turning gardening into a fun, easy smartphone game.
Elliot had previously created a computer science club and a robotics club at his high school with his friends. He had already learned to program and was creating small robots and robotic arms at home. Elliott took his passion for video game programming and — with his father’s help — built a gardening robot controlled by a smartphone app that he developed. He named the creation Bot2Karot.
Bot2Karot employs a camera, sensors and articulated arm to compel the robot to water and monitor your vegetables for you. By programming the robot with instructions, the robot performs a series of programmer operations. For instance, Bot2Karot can detect when the ground needs water or when the soil needs to be worked.
Elliot is the first French student to receive a prize at the Google Science Fair. His invention will provide a huge benefit to people with limited mobility and could lead to useful applications for the agriculture field. Elliott’s future aspirations include coming to the US to study and learn English.
Connor Shugg, 18
Apex, North Carolina, USA
Like most teenagers, Connor Shugg loves video games and music. Perhaps unlike many teenagers, he paired these two passions to create an award-winning musical video game.
Connor was a member of the Academy of Information Technology at his high school in Apex, North Carolina. This program introduced him to computer programming and he was hooked. During his sophomore year, he took a class on game development with C# and XNA. In 2016, Connor developed Allegria, a music-themed game inspired by his experience as a trumpet player in his high school’s marching band. This game — in which players defend the kingdom from an encroaching evil empire and combine musical notes in combat to damage the opponent — won the 2016 National STEM Video Game Challenge in the High School Open Platform category.
Soon after, the budding video game designer produced The Calculus Test, inspired by his experience in math class. The Calculus Test is a game that uses word problems as the major theme for each level, with “test-taking stress manifesting as enemy sprites and weapons representing various operations.” Connor’s original concept, music, graphics, and assets won him the High School GameMaker title at the 2017 National STEM Video Game Challenge.
Connor is wrapping up his first year at Virginia Tech, where he plays trumpet for the Marching Virginians. He is enrolled in the College of Engineering, where he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer science.
Jeremy Shuler, 14
Grand Prairie, Texas and Ithaca, New York, USA
Jeremy Shuler, the sons of two aerospace engineers, not only started reading when he was 2 years old but was reading in two different languages (English and Korean). By the time he was 11 years old, he’d taught himself chemistry and earned an online high school diploma. The next step was college. So, in 2016, young Jeremy Shuler applied to an Ivy League university and was accepted to Cornell University as the school’s youngest-ever student.
His acceptance at Cornell required his family to move from their home in Texas to upstate New York. As he was not even a teenager, Jeremy was not quite ready for dorm-living or the traditional college lifestyle. Jeremy currently lives at home with his family while attending classes at Cornell.
Sticking to his love for math and physics, Jeremy plans to pursue a career in academia. He will have graduated with his doctorate before he turns 21; that’s normally the time people earn a bachelor’s degree. Not only is he currently focused on college, he’s also working to develop a radar signal encoding algorithm using Costas Array based on Sophie Germain prime numbers.
Mphatso Simbao, 18
The 2016 Google Science Fair’s National Geographic Explorer Award went to Zambian student Mphatso Simbao. Growing up in a family that was heavily involved with the community and local politics, Mphatso was encouraged to notice the world around him and to make positive changes where he could; thus, Mphatso grew interested in reducing poverty in his community.
As Southern Africa struggles to recover from its worst drought in decades, farmers are seeing their crops destroyed, leading to famine for millions. The demise of these farms has the capacity to cripple entire national economies. To help local farmers find low-cost, affordable solutions for pesticides and fertilizers, Mphatso investigated alternative ways of generating the supplies farmers need. He created a simple, portable production station that requires basic cooking materials like charcoal and local plant leaves from the ground.
Based on his methods, Mphatso believes farmers can save hundreds of British Pounds in costs, saving 50% on fertilizers and 80% on pesticides to help them produce richer crops.
Caitlin Stanton, 19
New York, New York, USA
Widely regarded as a force to be reckoned with in the world of coding, Caitlin Stanton is known for founding her own coding hackathon and program, among other achievements.
Unlike other some of the other students featured in this list, Caitlin didn’t grow up nurturing a lifelong love of computers or dreams of coding; on the contrary, the born-and-raised Manhattan native found herself inspired by the trademark skyscrapers of her home’s landscape and wanted to pursue a career in architecture. It was a summer session with Girls Who Code that changed Caitlin’s mind. She discovered that she loved the hands-on application of computer science and returned to school that fall with a new love. Caitlin signed up for computer science classes and started participating in hackathons on a regular basis.
Following an internship with #BuiltByGirls, Caitlin became the co-found of Def Hacks, a bicoastal 24-hour hackathon, and head organizer of Pixie Hacks, a hackathon focused on immersing girls in the tech world. She is also the co-founder of FwdCode, a group that formed in response to the increasingly polarized political climate.
Caitlin Stanton is a sophomore at Cornell University and plans to major in electrical and computer engineering. She also serves as the president of the Alpha Omega Epsilon engineering sorority and is affiliated with Women in Computing, the Engineering Career Fair Team, and the Cornell Daily Sun.
Rohan Suri, 18
Alexandria, Virginia, USA
Rohan Suri’s brother was the victim of an undiagnosed and untreated injury, as his brother went without treatment, his condition worsened. It turns out Rohan’s brother had experienced a concussion, but since it wasn’t treated as one, he suffered. Rohan couldn’t stand to see his brother go through such a tragic situation, so he chose to take action and develop an improved concussion test.
Using his background in computer science, Rohan applied the skills that he gained from his classes at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology — artificial intelligence, parallel computing, computer vision, and multivariable calculus — to create an eye-tracking device to aid in diagnosing concussions. Rohan’s innovation uses a simple headset with a mirror and lights in conjunction with a phone app to provide a more accurate and more affordable diagnostic test. The app uses the phone’s video camera to record eye movement in response to a visual stimulus. The software within the app reviews the recording and can deliver information about the severity of an injury or its improvement within a minute.
Rohan has also developed a computational model for optimizing the allocation of resources during an Ebola outbreak and created an app for tracking the disease in an outbreak; he is currently working on a paper that scientifically validates his work.
At the age of 17, he formed his own company, Averia Health Solutions and has diagnosed more than 60 concussions since then. Rohan was named to the Forbes list of “30 Under 30” in Healthcare in 2017. He attends Stanford University where he is slated to receive an undergraduate degree in computer science in 2021.
Franklyn Wang, 17
Falls Church, Virginia, USA
When he was in the seventh grade, Franklyn Wang became very interested in mathematics and participated in the MATHCOUNTS National Competition. He was hooked and began competing in multiple math and science events each year.
The senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology was the top National Finalist at the 2017 Siemens Competition, receiving a $50,000 scholarship as part of his award. Franklyn’s work solved a longstanding mathematical problem that has a wide range of potential applications, from creating better algorithms for telecommunications to designing safer roads and bridges.
A finalist at the 2017 USA Computing Olympiad, Franklyn is one of the top 26 among all high school competitors in the US. He also captains his school’s National Science Bowl team, which placed 2nd at the national competition in 2017.
Franklyn’s plans include attending Davidson University and becoming a researcher in math, computer science, or engineering, with the end goal of using artificial intelligence and machine learning to solve problems that humanity faces.
Ramarni Wilfred, 15
Romford, United Kingdom
The world has seen few true geniuses over the course of time. Two of the most well-known brains are, of course, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. Could a third emerge from today’s young generation of thinkers?
Perhaps, and maybe this new great genius is Ramarni Wilfred. Ramarni, a British teenager, certainly possesses the potential. His IQ score is higher than Einstein’s, Hawking’s, and even Bill Gates’ score. Ramarni achieved a 162 on his intelligence quotient test.
Ramarni attended the gifted and talented program at St. Anthony’s Primary School in Upton Avenue, Forest Gate. When he was only 10 years old, he wrote a paper on the philosophy of fairness, and his unusually high essay score qualified him to take an IQ test at Birkbeck University.
Ramarni has expressed humility with all of the media coverage of his score, explaining that he can’t see himself in the same league at the other geniuses who have come before him and who have put forth the effort, work, and results that proved they indeed reached their individual potential.
He has been invited and accepted into Mensa and has hopes of attending Oxford University and becoming an astrophysicist.
Alexander Wulff, 18
Skaneateles, New York, USA
Alexander Wulff’s life looks like one beautiful, giant maker’s fair. The app maker and inventor, who graduated from high school only last year, has developed numerous solutions for community problems ever since he discovered that he could.
Alexander created and manufactured a device known as HaptoTech, which helps the visually impaired navigate unfamiliar environments sans guide-stick. He is also the founder of Conifer Apps, a company he started while in the eleventh grade. Conifer Apps is the company behind WatchWeb, the most-downloaded web browser for the Apple watch, and other IOS apps like RandomName, Short Domains, Photo2Celeb, Password Message, and Facebrowse.
The 2015 Intel ISET finalist and inventor chose to continue his studies at Harvard University, where he is a member of the robotics club.
Jeffery Xiong, 17
Dallas, Texas, USA
Even though we live in an increasingly digital age, there are still lots of kids out there who like to play chess. Jeffery Xiong is one of them — and boy, can he play. Jeffery is the United State’s third youngest player to ever become a chess grandmaster.
He was only 7 years old when he participated in his first tournament and quickly received the USCF Expert title in 2009; a year later, he achieved the FIDE Master title at the World Youth Chess Championship. He was the first place player at the 24th Chicago Open.
Jeffery, a homeschooler, won the 2017 Samford Fellowship and recently won the won the Category XVII St. Louis Spring Classic.
Amber Yang, 18
Windermere, Florida, US
Film, as an art form, has the capacity to influence our thoughts and emotions. Amber Yang was certainly captivated and inspired upon viewing the film Gravity. The high school freshmen started having dreams based on the film, which portrayed an astronaut’s escape to Earth following the destruction of a space shuttle. She was inspired to find a solution to the growing problem of accumulating space junk.
Amber has spent the past three years working on improvements to the way items are tracked so that spacecraft and satellites will recognize the junk, change orbit, and thus avoid catastrophic collisions. Her model predicts the future position of space junk with 98% accuracy, a statistic better than NASA’s models. Her work won her the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award along with the CERN Award at the Intel fair. Amber was also a finalist at the Regeneron Science Talent Search and a guest speaker on NPR’s Science Friday program. She was also named on the Forbes “30 Under 30” list in 2017.
At Stanford University, Amber majors in physics and runs Seer Tracking, the company she founded to provide space debris classification and tracking services to commercial constellation satellite companies, private spaceflight operations, and government space agencies.
Ivo Zell, 19
When he was just 13 years old, German student Ivo Zell developed a strong interest in model planes. This was more than a hobby — he was hooked. He devoured every book on aeronautical design that he could get his hands on and studied the work of the Horton Brothers, the German pilots who designed a series of “flying wing” airplanes in the 1930s and early 1940s. Ivo learned that WWII and the events that followed caused the Hortons’ work to go on the back burner — but why had their designs disappeared? Ivo decided to pick up where the Hortons had left off.
A flying wing — a plane that consists of an airfoil without a fuselage or tail unit — possesses optimized aerodynamics and significantly lower fuel consumption; however, they are difficult to steer and direct and have a tendency to delve into a spin. Ivo took the hallmarks of the Hortons work and set out to develop a flying wing that would remain stable in flight.
Ivo’s work garnered prizes at the Platz European Union Contest for Young Scientists in the Physics category. His research project “A Wing Is Enough: An Improved Flying Wing Based on a Bell-Shaped Lift Distribution” led him to take first place at the 2017 Intel ISEF. Ivo is the first German student to win the Gordon E. Moore Award and the $75K prize at Intel. His work is notable, it has the potential to make civil aviation more environmentally compatible.
In 2017, Ivo began studying mechanical engineering at RWTH Aachen University in Aachen, Germany.
Elvis Yihui Zhang, 19
San Francisco, California, USA
When Elvis Zhang moved to the U.S. at the age of 13, he began searching for ways to combat pollution. His research led him to create Oxy2, a unique architecture material to protect people indoors from air pollution with zero energy emission. These products have already helped more than 80,000 people in Asia and South America.
Elvis was recognized as a National YoungArts winner in 2016 and an Intel STS Scholar in 2017. He was also named on the Forbes “30 Under 30” list in fall 2017. He is currently conducting research at Princeton University and working on Oxy2 and Citybreathe, a project that allows anyone to track the pollution in their current location for free. Elvis wants to help build cleaner cities and improve people’s lives through science and design. He also manages the Designership Press at Stanford.
Feeling inspired? Each young person on this list is an amazing example of intelligence, passion, talent, and dedication. Located around the world, interested in a wide array of fields and industries, these students — the world’s 50 smartest teens — are indeed the next generation of thinkers, inventors, and leaders. We look forward to seeing how their inventions, ideas, companies, products, and movements shape the future.
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