Victoria, B.C.'s Ann Makosinski isn't a household name. Yet. But this 19 year-old is a pretty exceptional teenager.
Just this week, she was named to Forbes Magazine's 30 Under 30 list in the energy category. (Forbes is a famous American business magazine—its 30 Under 30 lists look at the top 30 people who are under the age of 30.) This follows her being named to TIME Magazine's 2013 30 Under 30 list, a win at the 2013 Google Science Fair for her age group, and becoming Popular Science's Young Inventor of the Year in 2016. She's even been in OWL Magazine a couple of times, including in our April 2015 issue!
It's pretty impressive stuff, and the more you learn about Ann, the more you understand why she's exceptional.
She is an inventor.
Flashlights and coffee mugs
Ann has been inventing since she was 7 years old. She admits that those early inventions didn't work very well (you gotta start somewhere!). Since then, she has made a name for herself by finding ways to make energy from common sources of heat. Things like a hot cup of coffee. Or even the human hand.
At 15, she invented the "hollow flashlight". It is a flashlight without batteries. To turn it on, you hold it. That's it!
This device was inspired by a trip to the Philippines, where she learned of a friend who was failing school because she had no electricity to be able to read after dark. So Ann set about trying to make a flashlight that you only needed to hold to turn on. It runs on nothing more than the energy produced by the heat of your hand. Amazing, right?
That invention brought her international attention. She has since followed it up with her e-Drink mug, a travel mug that can charge your phone off of the energy made by the heat in a hot drink. Your phone just died? Yep, it's hot chocolate to the rescue!
Old knowledge, new ideas
Ann herself likes to point out that the scientific theories that power her devices have been around a long time. For example, the principle that runs her e-Drink mug? It's called the Seebeck effect and it was discovered in 1821—almost 200 years ago! But what is important is her ability to take that old knowledge and use it to "power" a new idea. It's what inventors do!
Since getting discovered a few years ago, Ann has appeared on Jimmy Fallon's late-night television show (twice!). She's also done several TEDx talks (these are online public speaking events where inventors, scientists, and thinkers discuss their ideas for people). But she prefers to downplay what she's accomplished so far. In her mind, she's just an average kid who started making things with a hot glue gun and garbage laying around her house.
When interviewed by CBC after the Forbes announcement, she talked about getting her hollow flashlight available to the public (it's close!), one day having her own show to feature other young inventors... and about wanting to have five cats!
And her advice to any other inventors out there (maybe like yourself!)? "Minimize your distractions... because you learn best when you're young."
Alright everyone, it's time to hit the workshop! And to get you pumped up, here's Ann Makosinski as a 16 year-old talking about her flashlight and being an inventor.