November 26, 2014 10:06 am

Kids have amazing minds. In one moment, they seem to have infinite wisdom that could only be native in an old soul, and in the next, they’re trying on your too-big high heels and singing like they’re on Broadway. Although we try to stay as creative, imaginative, and playful as we were as kids, there’s no mistaking the mind of someone who hasn’t yet experienced the weight of the world.

Perhaps it’s this creativity and ingenuity that has led some kids to invent amazing things. Before they can even drive, these kids have created products that improve the lives of others while making an entrepreneurial name for themselves. So what exactly have children, both historically and recently, created, discovered, or invented?

Louis Braille was blind in both eyes as a result of an early childhood accident in his father’s workshop. However, he didn’t accept his blindness as a disability, but rather something that enabled him to help others. While being educated at France’s Royal Institute for Blind Youth, he developed Braille, a tactile code that allowed blind people to communicate effectively through reading and writing. In 1824, at the age of 15, he presented his work to his peers and over the next decades, developed the language into what it is today.

Chester Greenwood was tired of his ears getting chilly in the cold Maine wind. He enjoyed going ice skating with his friends but didn’t enjoy the internal freeze and chapped ears that were a side effect. In 1873, at the age of 15, he asked his grandmother to sew tufts of fur between loops of wire. His patent was for improved ear protectors, and he manufactured his product for years, both improving lives and creating jobs for people in his area for nearly 60 years. Chester Greenwood Day is celebrated in Maine with a parade on the first Saturday of December every year.

Robert Patch, like any 6-year-old kid, liked to play with toy trucks. He wanted a toy truck that could convert into different types of vehicles, so he took some shoe boxes, bottle caps, and nails, and invented a make-shift truck in 1963. It could be a flat bed or a dump truck, depending on the position of the axels. Luckily, his father was a patent attorney and recognized that his son’s design could be patentable. Although he received a lot of publicity from his invention, he never tried to sell it or become famous. Robert Patch held the record for the youngest person to gain a United States patent until a few years ago.

Kelly Reinhart was 8 years old when she and her siblings were driving their parents crazy on a boring rainy day. In an attempt to entertain his children, Kelly’s father challenged his kids to create an invention, saying that the best idea would be made into a prototype. Modeled after the cowboys clad in holsters in Westerns, Kelly designed a pack that ties onto your belt and around your thigh, holding videogames, cell phones, or other small items. She called it Thigh Pak, or T-Pak. Her design was patented in 1998 and has sold over $1 million. George Bush even met with Kelly and her family to discuss the T-Pak’s use in the military. She’s a bit of a philanthropist, too; Kelly has started a foundation to help other kids  turn their invention dreams into realities.

Cassidy Goldstein knew the struggle of writing with crayons. The paper would come off, wax would get all over your hands, or the crayon would break. While working on a writing project using the familiar art supply, the 11-year-old had an idea to encase the crayon with a clear plastic tube that was intended to hold flowers. This simple, yet effective solution earned her the title “Youth Inventor of the Year” in 2006. The Crayon Holder was patented and became a commercial product that sold on store shelves in Wal-Mart and other locations across the country. Cassidy’s father, inspired by her inventive spirit, founded By Kids for Kids, a company that harnesses kid driven innovation to help corporations increase product awareness.

Duro-Aina Adebola, Akindele Abiola, Faleke Oluwatoyin, and Bello Einola recognized the struggle for affordable, portable electricity in an “energy crisis.” The four Nigerian girls, all between the ages of 14 and 15, discovered that there is not really an energy crisis when they invented a machine that makes electricity out of something  we already produce: urine. The generator  they invented in 2012 can turn one liter of urine into 6 hours of power by separating the hydrogen out of water and putting it through a purification chamber before converting the hydrogen into gas that is used to power a generator. Although their invention is not receiving the attention it deserves, it has incredible potential to change the way our world looks at electricity.

The creative and unique ways kids think allow them to approach situations from a different perspective and discover solutions that someone older and more experienced may not think of. Young inventors have created many products, from toy trucks to Braille, and from water filtration systems to ear muffs.

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