Reading about the teenager's body-heat powered flashlight may give parents feelings of hope or angst. Is my teen's academic success speeding forward? Is it OK if they're stalled?
A 15-year-old student inventor of a new kind of flashlight is the latest in a long line of young people to catch the public imagination with the sheer ambition of her creation. Ann Makosinski, a high school junior from Canada, harnessed Peltier tiles (which generate electricity when one side is cooled and the other is heated) to make a flashlight that can run for about 20 minutes by using nothing more than human body heat. This puts her in the running for the Google Science Fair's $50,000 top prize, to be announced in September.
Inventions have captivated commentators and the general public since the era of the ancient Greeks (remember that cool ship-burning lens thing?) and Chinese (paper, anybody?), and they're doubly inspiring when young people create them - evidence that within every child there is a Leonardo da Vinci waiting to hatch.
The fine print (as there almost always is with any invention) is that Ann's flashlight doesn't work in temperatures above 50 degrees F. Think back to every time you've lost power and/or needed a flashlight, and then recall how many times it has been under 50 degrees. And then remember the similarly battery-free friction powered flashlight, already useful and brought to market. In short: it's a science-fair triumph, but probably not a cash cow.