Children are known for their powers of invention, but seem to be less known for their actual inventions. Some 500,000 kids and teens produce inventions every year! January 17, which is Kid Inventors’ Day, is the birthday of Benjamin Franklin – a kid inventor himself at age 12, when he invented swim flippers almost 300 years ago.
Check out some of history’s groundbreaking inventions that have wunderkind minds behind them:
Designed to be worn under coats and gloves, Wristies block snow, wind, and cold from entering unprotected gaps in clothes. KK Gregory from Bedford, Massachusetts invented Wristies when she was 10 years old in 1994.
2) The Cooling Umbrella
Straws lining the structure of this umbrella release water vapour evaporating from an attached water container. Featured in the Singapore newspaper, The Straits Times, this umbrella was invented by six-year-old Peh Yong. The kindergarten student won an Encouragement Award for his invention at the Tan Kah Kee Young Inventors’ Awards.
3) The Cast Cooler
The Cast Cooler is a portable device that relieves irritation caused by wearing a cast. The cooler, which pumps air into the cast through a plastic tube, was invented by Krysta Morlan when she was in 10th grade. She went on to invent the Waterbike, a fin-propelled semi-submersible, while still in high school.
Chester Greenwood of Farmington, Maine invented earmuffs at the age of 15 in 1873. After patenting his design, he went on to establish Greenwood’s Ear Protector Factory, and supplied ear protectors to US soldiers during World War I. In 1977, Maine declared December 21 “Chester Greenwood Day”, and Farmington is now the Earmuff Capital of the World.
5) Cell Phone Heart Test
This tiny device displays electrocardiograms on a mobile phone. Invented by 17-year-old Catherine, the device won third place in a science fair participated in by kid inventors from all over the world.
6) The Dome Home
Styled after the Mongolian yurt, the Dome Home is made out of recycled Styrofoam packaging and plastic grocery bags. Invented by 12-year-old Max Wallack in 2008, the Dome Home has a built-in bed that anchors it to the ground using the weight of the person inside. Max won $10,000 and an Intel-powered Dell laptop for his invention, and got to travel to Boston to see his design built.
7) The Popsicle
First known as “Epsicles”, Popsicles were invented by 11-year-old Frank Epperson in 1905, when his drink froze out on the porch overnight. He began selling them in several fruit flavours 18 years later. Today, over 1 billion popsicles in 30 different flavours are eaten in the US every year.
8) The Calculator
The first counting machine was invented in 1642 by 18-year-old Blaise Pascal, to help make his dad’s tax collecting job easier. Dubbed the “Pascaline”, the machine was able to add two decimals and subtract. Because people thought it would take jobs away, the calculator took 300 years to finally catch on.
9) Cabinet-Door Opener
This suction cup-extension combo was invented by a two-year old whose parents sectioned off a place where she couldn’t open the cabinet doors. According to the president of FIRST, an organization that encourages science and technology innovations among kids, the toddler had a patent for her invention by age four.
10) Plant-Booster Bacteria
Bacteria that can speed up the germination of cereal crops were discovered by Émer Hickey, Sophie Healy-Thow, and Ciara Judge, three 16-year-olds from Ireland. The teens were inspired to work on their discovery after learning about the East African food crisis.
11) Pleasant-Smell Alarm Clock
This alarm clock wakes you up with scent instead of sound in under one minute. Users choose an essential oil to put into the clock, and a fan directs the scent towards them in the mornings. The clock was invented by 17-year-old Guillame Rolland, who came up with coffee, chocolate, and wood scents for his clock in a lab.
This system of using raised dots to enable people to read was invented by Louis Braille in 1824 when he was 15 years old. Before it was invented, a raised-letter system was used where it took people much longer to feel out each letter in order to read. Braille became widely used after its inventor died at age 43.