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These Kids Are Changing the World

Extraordinary discoveries and exciting inventions happen every day – and not all of them are made by grown-ups. Meet four kids who are making a global impact with their ideas.

How a 15-Year-Old Discovered an Ancient City

Quebec teen William Gadoury was fascinated by the ancient Mayan people, and he spent years learning about their science, customs, and traditions. As he looked at Mayan star maps, he had an idea – could the star maps signify something more? Gadoury tested several theories, one of which was to lay the star maps over corresponding Google Earth images.

The 15-year-old discovered that 117 ancient Mayan cities matched up with the Mayan star maps, and there were clear patterns between stars and city locations. However, based on his analysis of the stars, the map of known cities was incomplete. Gadoury partnered with the Canadian Space Agency to access satellite imagery. Amazingly, there was a man-made structure clearly visible where he expected a city to be. Gadoury found a previously undiscovered Mayan city without ever visiting South America.

New Shoes for Homeless Kids

Nicholas Lowinger was just five years old when his grandfather told him the story of his impoverished childhood. Lowinger was deeply affected by the idea of his grandfather walking to school in shoes stuffed with cardboard to keep the rain out. By the age of 12, he had a solution.

The young man launched Gotta Have Sole, a non-profit dedicated to providing homeless kids with brand-new shoes. Today, Lowinger’s charity has donated shoes to more than 62,000 children in all 50 states.

An Ocean of Litter

The amount of plastic in the world’s oceans is staggering. Bags and other detritus are threatening wildlife and polluting natural resources. In some areas, tides and currents bring massive amounts of discarded plastic together. One of these, the Pacific Garbage Patch, is thought to be twice the size of Texas and up to nine feet deep.

When 16-year-old Boyan Slat asked what could be done to clean up the waste, adults told him it would be impossible. Slat didn’t take “no” for an answer. He created an ingenious solution that puts the ocean’s currents to work clearing the debris. His creation is a giant elbow-shaped barrier that floats on top of the water. Ocean currents carry sea life safely underneath the structure, while floating plastic is trapped for collection and recycling. Today, Slat’s idea is becoming reality. The first prototype of his invention is scheduled for deployment by the end of 2017.

Simplified Cancer Screenings

Some of the biggest names in the scientific community have dedicated their lives to reducing the impact of pancreatic, lung, and ovarian cancers through better treatment and earlier detection. However, Jack Andraka may make the biggest impact this decade. At just 15 years old, Andraka invented a simple, inexpensive, and accurate test for the deadliest of cancers, and he is working to expand his method to other diseases.

Kids Can Change the World

These four kids saw complicated problems, and they weren’t willing to wait for someone else to think of solutions. They used their talent and creativity to find innovative ways to make a difference. Their commitment and ingenuity located a lost city, brought new shoes to homeless kids, made it faster and easier to diagnose cancer, and started the clean-up of world oceans. These kids show that age doesn’t matter when it comes to problem-solving. If you see an issue in your home or community, tap into your creativity and think about ways to fix it. You might be the next kid to change the world!