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Teenage Inventor’s Body Heat-Powered Light Could Change the World

At just 15 years old, Ann Makosinski invented a flashlight that never needs batteries — just the heat from your hand.

Last summer, Ann’s “Hollow Flashlight” won her the prize for her age group at the 2013 Google Science Fair. The flashlight uses peltier tiles, which utilize the thermoelectric effect to produce an electric current when opposite sides of the tiles are heated and cooled simultaneously.

The interior of the flashlight is composed of an aluminum tube through which air can flow, cooling the sides of four peltier tiles attached to the flashlight’s cylinder. The other side is warmed by heat from the hand holding it, creating enough power to emit light from an LED.

As NBC Nightly News reported earlier this week, Ann’s now headed to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair with a new invention. This one is a headlamp that also uses body heat, but includes a solar charging unit as well that lets it hold a charge so it’s ready to use when you are.

An 11th grader from Victoria, B.C., Ann credits her family with encouraging her interest in science. ‘My first toy was a box of transistors,’ she says. ‘I was always taking garbage from around the house, taking things apart and putting them together. I just wanted to make things better.’  In the NBC segment, Ann’s father, Arthur Makosinski, said that he encouraged this natural curiosity and interest in taking apart things apart because as a child, he was scolded for the same thing.

While it was Ann’s family that fostered her interest in science, it was a friend that inspired her life-changing invention. Ann, who is half-Filipino, was motivated to create her flashlight by a friend in the Philippines. Without electricity, her friend couldn’t study at night, and was failing in school as a result. ‘There are still 1.4 billion people in the world without electricity,’ she explains in her video below. ‘I’m hoping my crazy idea can be part of the solution.’

While it remains to be seen whether her flashlight will be a solution for people in poverty around the world, it’s already clear that this young inventor is going places. In December of last year, Ann made Time’s ‘thirty under thirty’ list of young people changing the world. She has given three TED Talks, and recently appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

The significant shortage of women in STEM fields makes Ann’s story even more impressive. While a large number of little girls are interested in science when they are young, by age eight, many have lost that interest. Ann herself says she felt the “pressure to assimilate and be like all the other girls,” especially when she was younger. But thanks to a supportive family who nurtured her interest in science, she stuck with it.

Today, Ann Makosinski is another brilliant kid who’s changing the worldand an inspiring example for young inventors, both girls and boys.

Image via Youtube

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Ashley MacQuarrie

Ashley MacQuarrie began writing professionally more than ten years ago and has covered education, technology, current events, pop culture, and other topics. A former homeschooler, she studied English and Film & New Media, graduating with a bachelor's degree from San Diego State University. Ashley has classroom experience working with children who have autism and other special needs. She has also tutored students from kindergarten through college and taught English to teens and adults at a language school in London.

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