50 Amazing Things Invented by Kids
They can't buy beer, but they're shaping the world.
What is a kid, if not a budding young scientist? A growing body of research including a recent study famously conducted at UC Berkeley reveals that, beginning as young as infancy and toddlerhood, children engage in the scientific method while becoming acquainted with the world. Like scientists, children make hypotheses about their surroundings and then test them out, analyzing their findings and banking that new knowledge for the future. Each game of peekaboo is a lesson in object permanence, each stacked block tower a physics tutorial.
So it should come as no surprise when, just a few years down the line, one of these kids comes up with a breakthrough that has the potential to change the course of human history. Paving the way for new tech, medicine, entertainment, and beyond, these children are here to prove that age is nothing but a number when it comes to making their mark on the world. Their contributions run the gamut from the silly to the life-saving, spanning from items you already use every day to cutting-edge innovations that rival those of seasoned professionals. With these budding geniuses in mind, we’ve rounded up 30 amazing things invented by kids.
Stunned by a tragic accident in which a six-month-old infant died of overheating in a parked car in his Texas neighborhood, 11-year-old Bishop Curry invented a livesaving device called Oasis. His invention, currently in prototype, detects when a child is left unattended in a vehicle, alerts the child’s parents and authorities through an app, and blows cool air until help arrives. Curry hopes that his creation will someday prevent the 55 percent of heat-related car deaths in which parents are unaware that they’ve left the child in the car.
Perhaps you knew that the swimming flippers or fins you see at the beach and pool have been around for centuries, but did you know that they were the very first invention of none other than Benjamin Franklin, at the tender age of 11? His early tinkering took two notable forms which, combined, look not unlike today’s product: first, a set of oval planks with holes in the middle that Franklin held in his hands and pumped through the water, and later, a set of boards that he attached to his feet to kick water away. Franklin would later go on to contribute countless innovations, most famously the lightning rod and bifocal glasses.
A lot of seven-year-olds love dogs, but not many seven-year-olds have funneled that devotion into a full-blown holiday that’s celebrated around the world. It may not be a household name at the level of Christmas or Hanukkah, but Time recently reported on Wolfenoot, a holiday created by Jax Goss of New Zealand that’s gained viral international traction. Observed in November, Wolfenoot is when the “spirit of the wolf” hides small gifts around the houses of animal lovers, with better gifts for those who have been particularly kind to dogs that year.
Lead Detecting Device
When Gitanjali Rao began following news of the Flint water crisis, she was nine years old. By the time she was 11, she realized she might be able to help. The seventh grader designed a lead detecting device that surpassed other options on the market by being more effective, convenient, and portable, yet less expensive. Rao’s invention consists of three key components: carbon nanotubes, a Bluetooth signal processor, and an app that displays and interprets the results. Her work earned her the accolade of being named “America’s Top Young Scientist” in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.
Pancreatic Cancer Sensor
If most high schoolers are consumed with cramming for midterms and finding a date to the prom, sophomore Jack Thomas Andraka is something of an anomaly. Andraka has been hailed a “teen prodigy” and named winner of the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award after developing test strips that reportedly detect pancreatic cancer. Though researchers continue to test his method for effectiveness and possible applications to this day, Andraka claims that his method is far quicker, more sensitive, and more accurate than any other test product on the market. Given that pancreatic cancer has a five year survival rate of only six percent, this particular contribution could be one for the medical history books if his findings are confirmed.
A Way to Recycle Styrofoam
Styrofoam accounts for roughly 25 percent of landfill material, and is notoriously difficult to recycle. Yet it didn’t take long—50 hours, to be precise—for a team of three eighth graders to come up with a working solution. As part of the Google Science Fair, 14-year-olds Julia Bray, Ashton Coffer, and Luke Clay came up with a system that converts Styrofoam into activated carbon by heating it, then using that carbon to filter water.
The year was 1930. At 16 years old, George Nissen—a trained gymnast and swimmer, living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa—attended a circus and watched in amazement as the trapeze artists and tumblers dismounted onto safety nets. He thought to himself, wouldn’t it be incredible if they could continue their tricks by bouncing back? And just like that, the trampoline was born. He built the original prototype himself in his family garage, stretching a canvas directly over a steel frame. Four years later, his college swim coach would help him adjust the design by adding rubber tire inner tubes for extra bounce.
Pathogen Stopper for Airplanes
Raymond Wang was just 17 years old when he won the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in 2015, taking home a $75,000 prize for his clever invention. Wang created a way to stop pathogens—including the news headlining “swine flu” and SARS—from being spread on airplanes, using a simple and inexpensive plastic rerouting track that can be attached to existing air inlets. Wang told the Washington Post that his invention creates a “personalized ventilation zone” that saves passengers from breathing each other’s air and significantly cuts the spread of airborne disease.
During her junior year of high school, Olivia Hallisey enrolled in a science research course that would, unbeknownst to her at the time, shape her future. It was during this class that she took an interest in epidemics and how to stop them, and learned that containing Ebola and similar diseases hinged on simple, efficient, reliable ways to test for signs of contamination before a patient shows visible symptoms. After reviewing the Ebola tests on the market, Hallisey realized that they were difficult to use and that their reliability was dependent on temperature. Starting with the best version available, she retrofitted a new version that was inexpensive, easy to use, and unaffected by temperature, earning her the top prize at the 2015 Google Science Fair.
Most of us are familiar with Braille, the written language for people with eyesight impairments, but far fewer know its story of origin. Louis Braille was just three years old when he suffered an accident that would leave him without his sight. At 10, he was sent to the National Institute for Blind Youth in Paris, where he met Charles Barbier, an army lieutenant who had created his own raised dot system for communicating with other soldiers in the dark. Inspired by this approach, but recognizing its weaknesses, Braille spent three years between the ages of 12 and 15 creating his own raised dot alphabet that was far simpler to learn. The method remains virtually unchanged today from its initial publishing in 1829.
HARVEST Solar Leaves
Clean energy is a buzz topic that we see everywhere, so it’s shocking to learn that one of the most impressive and practical tools recently invented to mitigate the global energy crisis came not from a major think tank, but from a 13-year-old girl. Maanasa Mendu developed what she calls HARVEST solar leaves, which generate electrical currents when exposed to vibrations, converting sunlight, rain, and wind into renewable energy sources. Her low-budget creation makes wind and solar energy affordable at just $5 per unit, which she hopes will increase access in developing countries.
Superman: he’s brawny, brave, and handsome, with unshakable moral fiber and just enough vulnerability to be relatable. These are just a few of the reasons he is widely considered the best superhero of all time, and arguably the superhero all others are modeled after. But beyond that, Superman reflects American values in the form of a blueprint for ideal American manhood—no small achievement for a comic book character. That’s why it’s so impressive that the concept and original comics were created by two teenage boys, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, at the tender age of 16.
For some kids, play is serious business. In the mid-90s, 10-year-old Richie Stachowski, Jr. created a toy that allowed its users to talk under water up to 15 feet below surface. The horn-shaped creation earned countrywide distribution from Toys “R” Us, and was later sold by Kmart and Walmart. Stachowski went on to create a water toy company, “Short Stack, LLC,” which cleverly marketed itself as “made by a kid for kids,” and in 1999, he was the youngest person to win the Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
Reversible Bed/Game Table
This next child creator got his fifteen minutes of fame while debuting his invention on Ellen. Middle schooler Kyle Cutler explained to the audience that he had asked his mother for a game table to keep in his bedroom, and his mother retorted that, given their space constraints, he would need to choose between a game table and a bed. This was his eureka moment, and he got to work creating a reversible bed/game table combo. His clever, space-saving piece of furniture can be flipped upside down and secured with pegs to suit either use. Now that’s something that both parents and kids can get behind.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, at any given moment, the human body generates as much energy as a 100 watt light bulb, released in the form of body heat. That was the inspiration behind 16-year-old Ann Makosinski’s ingenious invention, which she calls the “hollow flashlight.” This flashlight harnesses biothermal energy so that the handheld light shines the moment you pick it up‒no need to stock backup batteries ever again. This has a range of applications (many of which are still being uncovered), ranging from providing sustainable light sources in developing regions to powering medical devices such as pacemakers or hearing aids.
“The Greenwood Champion Ear Protector”—or earmuffs, as the product came to be commonly known after their patent–were created in 1873 by Chester Greenwood at the age of 15. The story goes that he was in his hometown in Farmington, Maine, enjoying a day of ice skating on the local pond, when his ears got particularly cold. He went home that day and asked his grandmother to fashion something to cover his ears that would be more comfortable for his sensitive ears than a wool muffler. The original design used beaver fur on the outside, and was lined with a soft black velvet on the inside. When he turned 18, he was awarded a patent for the earmuff, and went on to open two factories in his hometown, producing 400,000 earmuffs per year at the time of his death in 1937.
In 2011, 14-year-old Robert Nay decided to build a game using a beginner’s app-developing tool called Corona. That game was Bubble Ball, a physics-based, free iPhone and Android puzzle game in which the player moves a ball through a sort of obstacle course that they can manipulate. Within two weeks of releasing the app on iTunes, Bubble Ball was downloaded over two million times, becoming the number one most downloaded free app on the site, and knocking Angry Birds from the coveted position.
When Byron Siragusa was six, he found himself in the hospital with a ruptured appendix. Byron and his mother, Julie, decided to try to make the best of his month-long stay by playing games and making up new ones. Their favorite homemade game was Continent Race, a board game that taught geography, and Byron decided that he wanted to share his game with the world. In October of this year, the family launched a Kickstarter page to have the game produced, and for each person that contributed, the Siragusas sent one game set to a child in the hospital. In total, they’ve donated over 150 so far!
At age 16, French mathematician, philosopher, and child prodigy Blaise Pascal had already made significant contributions to the field of projective geometry. But since few people use projective geometry in their daily lives, his invention of the first mechanical calculator at the age of 18 might be his most impressive contribution as a child prodigy. The machine was capable of adding and subtracting, as well as multiplying and dividing through a more arduous process of repetitive addition and subtraction. Over the course of three years and 50 prototypes, Pascal developed a compact brass box with a row of eight moveable metal dials on the surface and a series of boxes that displayed the results, setting the stage for the modern-day calculator as we know it.
Thank goodness for happy accidents. Because of them, we have Penicillin, x-ray imaging, Teflon, the Slinky, and—yes—popsicles! The popsicle was created (or, arguably, discovered) in 1905 by 11-year-old Frank Epperson, when he left a cup of water and powdered soda outside on a frigid San Francisco evening. In the morning he found a delicious frozen treat, and quickly realized that the mixing stick still resting inside could be used as a convenient handle. 20 years later, he marketed the product as the “Epsicle,” and the rest is history.
Samantha Marquez was just 16 when she came up with her first medical breakthrough: Celloidosomes. These tiny, hollow cell structures could be used as a sort of live capsule to transport drugs, though on her website, Marquez shares that she envisions uses in tissue transplantation, water purification and decontamination, biological sensors, organ repair, and more. She is currently pursuing research on Celloidosomes at Yale University.
Inventors Without Borders
Javier Fernandez-Han has been inventing solutions to problems since he was a young boy, beginning with a robot that would clean up his spills. He’s also responsible for a solar generator that turns mist into water, and an algae reactor that makes a carbon-rich biofuel used to power machinery. But perhaps most unique about this young inventor is his commitment to inspiring other teens to invent in the spirit of public service. He established Inventors Without Borders, a nonprofit organization for high school students to tackle real-world problems with their ideas.
Given our safety-obsessed culture today, it’s hard to believe we ever considered it a sound idea to balance lit candles on Christmas trees. 15-year-old Albert Sadacca helped to change all of that when he adapted lights sold in his parents’ store to decorate Christmas trees more safely in 1917. He helped to popularize the electric tree lights when he founded NOMA Electric Company, which dominated the Christmas light industry.
White canes for the visually impaired were introduced in the early 1920s, and hadn’t gotten an upgrade since. That is, not until this year, when 15-year-old Riya Karumanchi took up the cause after watching her friend’s visually impaired grandmother struggle to navigate a room with the antiquated design. She outfitted a new version with GPS and sensors that vibrate to indicate directions, giving the visually impaired a safer way to walk with confidence.
Solar Powered Tents
A group of teenage girls in a San Fernando, California high school saw a problem in their city: the rising rate of homelessness. With the help of DIY Girls, they decided to do something about it. The all-female team of twelve set about building solar powered smart tents that could fold down into backpacks. They learned the necessary skill sets in step with the project’s needs, with several of the girls learning C++ to program the tents and improve functionality.
The inventor of the snowmobile, J. Armand Bombardier, was just a teenager when he came up with his snow-skimming vehicle. He was living in Quebec in the early 1900s, and when a snowstorm blocked the roads, common practice was to travel by horse-drawn sleigh. The original version of his invention was propeller-powered, but he released a more sophisticated gas-powered version of the vehicle at the age of 19 in 1926.
Back in 2013, cell phone batteries were in need of an upgrade. They tended to charge more slowly, and they held less of a charge over all. 18-year-old Eesha Khare set out to build a phone battery that could recharge in just one minute. She came away from her project with the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award and a $50,000 cash prize.
At age 19, Chicago resident Anthony Halmon created the Thermofier, an invention that would get him a spot at the White House Science Fair. With guidance from the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and his own infant daughter in mind, Halmon developed a pacifier that takes a baby’s temperature. He told MSNBC that the invention changed his life after the death of his father, and getting mixed up in some “gang-like activities.” Working toward something bigger helped him refocus and find his path, ultimately leading him to study at Cornell University.
Okay, so this one was a father-son team, but who says genius child inventors can’t have a little help in their corner? Hans and Zacharias Janssen were credited for creating the microscope in 1590, when the younger Janssen was only a teenager. The original model was a compound microscope with two lenses, which Galileo famously improved upon and popularized in the early 1600s.
Wristies are a fingerless gloves that warm your palms and forearms while still allowing you to use your fingers with dexterity. They were originally invented by 10-year-old KK Gregory to stop snow from going up her sleeves while building a snowman. She continued to wear them throughout the winter, and then tested out different designs with friends from her Girl Scout troop. When she realized how popular they were among her pals, she and her mother decided to file a patent and begin a full-fledged business! Today, Gregory is a firefighter, but she still continues to sell Wristies online.
ManCans: Candles for Men
Hart Main was a 12-year-old boy who felt sick of the “girly” scents candles had. The solution? Create manly scented candles, like his famous “New Mitt” or “Fresh Cut Grass” fragrances and place them in soup cans. Solving two problems at once, Main decided that he would make donations to local soup kitchens and have them return the empty cans. Soon, news stations were covering his story and his business was thriving. He also wrote a book to help other young entrepreneurs. Next step: world domination.
Bluetooth-Enabled Portable ECG
Catherine Wong has a big heart (pun intended). This 17-year-old genius took it upon herself to create a device with the goal of helping individuals without access to adequate healthcare. She used simple phones (since she doesn’t own a smartphone herself) and found a way to connect electrodes that transmit signals in real-time to the phone screen. These graphs are then transmitted over cellular networks to local healthcare professionals who can assist patients. Not surprisingly, she also got a perfect SAT score.
Makin’ Bacon: Casually Making the Best Bacon In The World
Abbey Fleck was eight years old when she started to “bring home the bacon” for her family. Her dad ran out of paper towels, so he put one on a piece of newspaper instead. Her mom scolded him so he said, “I could just stand here and let it drip dry.” Even though he was kidding, Abbey thought it was a great idea and started working on her own system!
Emergency Mask Launcher
Using the physics behind a shirt cannon that you’ve seen at a sporting event, teenager Alexis Lewis created an invention that can save lives faster and more efficiently. Lewis had already created an invention at 12 years old: the “Rescue Travois”, which helped pregnant women reach hospitals faster. Three years later, she came up with the Emergency Mask Launcher, which helps firefighters supply smoke masks, goggles, and LED sticks to people they can’t extract safely right away. This drastically reduces the chance of damage or death from smoke inhalation as victims wait for rescue. This girl is on fire!
The “Skiboard” (what you may know as the Snowboard)
Inventor Tom Sims and his friend John Murray were in wood shop class when he created his first major invention: the “Skiboard.” Sims wanted to combine his favorite sports: skiing and skateboarding. So, in 1963, the snowboard was born. Sims was so successful at navigating the snowboard himself that he went on to be the stunt double for 007 in A View to Kill. The Sims brand is now a leader for consumers in the snowboarding, skateboarding, and skiing industries. We think that’s pretty tubular, man.
Prosthetic Arms for Only the Most Glamorous
A glitter-shooting prosthetic arm is just one of Jordan Reeves’ incredible inventions. She also designed a push-up arm because she enjoys CrossFit when she isn’t out saving the world. In 2016, Reeves was just 11 years old when she decided to start Project Unicorn to inspire and help others like her. Reeves was born with her left arm starting from above her elbow. Reeves went on to feature her 3D-printed invention on the popular show Shark Tank and is in the process of starting her own non-profit. Basically, she is a literal superhero.
The SMARTwheel: An Ironic Invention
In 2009, at 14 years old, TJ Evarts couldn’t even drive yet. Still, he took it upon himself to lead a team of inventors, named the “Kidpreneurs”, who were later asked to compete on Shark Tank. He created technology that monitored driving habits, intended to dissuade teens from texting and other distracted driving behaviors. It uses sensors to alert drivers if their hands are out of position or leave the wheel. The SMARTwheel also sends feedback about driving habits to the users’ and parents’ phones and has an incentive system to track progress. A SMARTWheel from a smart kid!
The Easy-Lift Trash Can
Trash cans have evolved, like this $750 one, but sometimes it was the simplest inventions that really made a difference. In 2001, Tony Jarecki was a fifth grader who was sick and tired of taking out the trash. He knew there had to be a way to be able to lift the bag out of the can without all of the suction and without spilling trash everywhere. Well, there was! He created a trash can with a locking door on the side so you could pull the trash out with ease. It also stores extra bags and bag ties as well. Jarecki turned garbage into gold!
The Workout Kid (Exercise Videos and Brand)
When CJ Senter was sidelined during football playoffs for a knee injury, he wasn’t going to let life beat him down. Ten-year-old CJ and his dad would do light cardio exercises, so he could bounce back stronger than ever. Unfortunately, CJ felt that the workout videos he’d see on TV were too bland for kids. He started creating his own routines and exercises and wanted to share them with other kids his age, so he created his own enterprise. He is now famous as The Workout Kid. Get in shape in the cutest possible way with CJ Senter!
A Wheat Dehusking Device
As you’re probably starting to notice: Most famous inventors were creating things far before they made their big break. Well, the same goes for Alexander Graham Bell—the man responsible for the telephone. This man was a natural and casually came up with an invention while playing with his friend’s house in their grain mill. Only 12 years old, Bell noticed how slow the process of de-husking wheat was, so he went home and combined some paddles and nail brushes to help his friend’s family out.
Algae That Saves Our Environment
Param Jaggi, a 17-year-old who says he is “borderline obsessed” with coming up with solutions to global warming. Still holding a learner’s permit, Jaggi found a way to use algae to reduce car emissions. The algae feeds on carbon dioxide, the gas that contributes majorly to air-pollution. Those who are savvy scientists like Param know that when algae consumes CO2, it in turn converts it to oxygen—the gas that keeps the world turning. This crucial discovery can lead to major improvements in air quality, so Jaggi is literally saving the world.
BEACON: A Renewable Energy Source
Hannah Herbst is yet another inventor who cares very much about the environment. So, at 17 years old, she’s figured out a way to use the world to save itself! Her device: BEACON (Bringing Electricity Access to Countries through Ocean Energy). Herbst found a way to use ocean currents as a renewable source of energy. What is even more astronomically impressive is that she wishes to use it to power medical equipment in developing countries. It’s no surprise that she’s part of the Forbes 30 Under 30.
Retractable Training Wheels
Peyton Robertson might be the best big brother that a sister can ask for. He was featured on The Ellen Show for his stroke of genius that happened when he saw his younger twin sisters struggling to learn how to ride a bike. Peyton created a mechanism so that novice riders can retract the training wheels on their bike with the twist of a handle. The teenager feels that it reduces the chance for what could be a serious and harmful injury.
The 50-Star American Flag
At 17 years old, Robert G. Heft was excited when he received an assignment in his History class to redesign the American Flag. He spent hours laboring over his project, so wouldn’t accept the B-minus grade he received. He challenged his teacher, Mr. Pratt, to a bet: If he got congress to adopt his new design, Mr. Pratt had to change his grade to an A. Determined, Heft contacted congress and before he knew it his history project was selected in 1959 as the new symbol of America. Don’t worry, he got an A+.
The Sign Language Translator
Ryan Patterson spent every Saturday, since he was 10 years-old, with a successful retired physicist, John McConnell. It paid off when he was 17 years old and conceived of one of his greatest inventions…. At a Burger King. He saw a group of deaf people ordering at the register. They would sign to a translator who would then communicate to the cashier. Motivated to find a more efficient means of communication, Patterson invented a system that uses sensors in leather gloves. The user signs, the glove picks up the motions and the words are displayed on an LCD display. You can even customize it to fit each person’s unique signing style.
The First All-Electronic TV
While the TV had already been invented, it had relied on a mechanical system that was often unreliable. In high school, Philo Farnsworth found inspiration while plowing his farm in Idaho. Much like the parallel lines in the field, he figured he could create a way to display images in parallel lines across a screen by using the power of electrons. We can thank him and Idaho farming for our current advancements like 3D TV.
The 3D-Printed Fidget Toy
Jakob Sperry used his skill and love for building things and combined it with the help of modern technology. Sperry felt that the fidget toys teachers supplied to students who struggled with learning disabilities were a bit plain. Using 3D printers, Jakob put his own “spin” on fidget toys and created the Gyrings. He had no idea that it would become more than a playful idea for his school. You can now buy yours today at major retailers, including Amazon.
The Step Ramp
Young inventor Jonathan Edwards was a 6th grader who really “stepped” it up. No, really. He won the NSTA Young Inventors Awards in 2001 for his idea that helps people in wheelchairs or those who need to move heavy objects up a set of stairs. Edwards’ incredible invention lets people have the best of both worlds. Relying mainly on hinges, Edwards “Step Ramp” system converts stairs into a ramp instantly so people don’t have to spend large sums of money on installing ramps.
Fake Solar Power
This girl is definitely “bright.” High-schooler Annie Ostojic loves to make great ideas even better. After creating a more efficient microwave, Ostojic got working on a system that powers batteries from indoor lighting. This system will lead to major discoveries in energy sectors and landed her her own spot the Forbes 30 Under 30. She is also a student and researcher at the National Center for Women and Information Technology.
The Pringles Hook
The website www.littleinventors.org connects inventive children 5 to 12 with successful professionals who can turn the kids’ genius ideas into reality. This happened for 11-year-old Georgia Dinsley who was sick and tired of reaching into a narrow Pringles can only to come up with broken chips. She got to thinking and drew up her design, which was later made a reality by Carl Gregg and Andy Mattocks. Now Georgia can eat in sweet, salty peace.
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