Jonny is the inventor of GreenShields, a polycarbonate shield that attaches to the fronts of school buses, making them more aerodynamic which in turn improves their gas mileage.
What made your project unique?
I really think that my GreenShields project is special because it incorporates not only me but many other kids. It also incorporates Northwestern University and the students there, so it’s quite a wide variety of students and even professors that help out.
So, we hear that you have interns at Northwestern University? What is it like having interns who are older than you?
Well, I don’t necessarily refer to them as my interns, but I do think that they are really awesome. It’s really interesting to have somebody who’s older than you really take you seriously and respect the work that you do. We have this great relationship in which we can do that.
What's next for GreenShields?
Over the summer, GreenShields is going to be continuing its work at Northwestern University, and we are going to be designing a second model. This model will be less than $50 and will be readily available by the end of the summer.
It Starts with Sustainability
McKenzy, age 14
In 2010, Homer, Alaska native McKenzy hosted the first ever TEDxHomer Teen conference. The theme? Sustainability. McKenzy and several other teens adapted the TED model to get the word out about ocean conservation to 140 residents in Homer and about 1,800 people streaming online. The conference included discussions about the oceans, climate change in the Arctic and Antarctica and ecological economics.
What issues were affecting you in your community that inspired you to host your own TEDx event?
I saw a lot of climate change in Homer. I could see the glaciers melting and just all the problems being caused by global warming. I wanted to spread awareness and get my ideas about climate change out.
What made your project unique?
I was one of the first youths to actually put on a TEDx event in my town. I think that I also used media like Skype and Flickr that a lot of people haven’t been using to get my ideas out and to get people to come to my event.
What advice would you have for your fellow teens that have an idea for a project but lack the funding and support?
I think teens really need to talk to their local government officials like state representatives, governors and mayors and not only tell them about their project ideas, but also make sure to ask for what they want. If they want funding...ask for funding, if they want publicity...ask for publicity.
Have you faced any obstacles as a young leader? If yes, how have you overcome these obstacles?
I think a lot of companies that I asked to sponsor us might have thought that since I was just a kid that I wasn’t as credible as maybe an adult TEDx leader. I think I was able to overcome that by showing them what we have done in the past, and I think that gave me the credibility.
Do you have any other TEDx events planned in the near future?
Actually right now I’ve added two more teammates to my group, and we’re actually working on the next TEDx youth Homer event. We’re putting it on in a bigger facility, so we’re trying to get more people and stream it live to more people.
Power Data Driven Development
Sisters Crystal and Joyce have teamed up to create Jamii, a new data collection tool that supports aid agencies in gathering important feedback from their communities.
Joyce, age 16 and Crystal, age 19
What inspired this project?
Crystal: Well, it started with a conversation with a friend who is an international student from Kenya. He was telling me that in his community he noticed that some of his neighbors were using some of the malaria meds he received from an American NGO for fishing. We both got to thinking, and we just figured there should be a better way for development agencies and foundations that do international development projects to learn more about the actual needs of the community…since a lot of development is donor driven. So we wanted to make it more data driven and our ideas to create a prototype for a tool that would allow community members to use text messaging to survey them and ask them to text in their opinions.
So basically, would you say that your project consists of using mobile technology to increase donor giving?
Crystal: Yes, and our project is called Jamii, which means community in Swahili, and we’re trying to power data driven development.
What advice would you have to offer fellow teenagers and young adults who have an idea but they lack the support and funding. How would you inspire them to continue forward?
Crystal: I think that it really takes a team. I know that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, but sometimes when you try to get a project started it really helps to have people who are behind you.
What kinds of obstacles have the two of you faced as young leaders in getting your project from inception to where you are now?
Joyce: I think most people, because of our age, don’t tend to take us seriously. Like, "Oh you are just a teenager," and we all know that teenagers don’t have the best reputation, so I think that kind of hinders us.
How do you overcome this?
Crystal: I think it's important to turn the youth perspective into something that can be a good selling point for companies and sponsors. It is a great way to use that potential disadvantage as an advantage.
Joyce: Yeah, I think that when sponsors that they are actually like inspiring the younger generation it makes them feel like warm in their heart.
What’s next for Jamii?
Crystal: I’ve been talking with my dorm mate, and we’re trying to get a phone that we can test a prototype on. I’m also trying to get in contact with someone at a research center within the foundation for some cell phone companies because there are actually some companies that are doing research in how mobile technology can use for health systems. I’m trying to see if we can leverage some of that existing technology for something in data analysis.
Check out this video to hear from Oink-a-Saurus creator Fabian Fernandez-Han and Griffin Latulippe who recently incorporated InvenTech Enterprises.