Last Thursday I had the pleasure of attending Youth-in-Motion's annual Top 20 Under 20 awards held at Arcadian Court in downtown Toronto, where I got to meet amazing young individuals and their stories and quests to try to make our world a better place.
From cancer survivors that have ridden with Lance Armstrong, to young music execs, to budding entrepreneurs and inventors, this year's crop was astounding, having sat on the board of Youth-in-Motion as a youth member these past two years. I was particularly delighted and intrigued by a couple of the winners, and their passion to merge saving the environment with innovative scientific solutions.
This being a climate change blog, I thought that I would profile some of their work here, just to demonstrate the amazing things young scientists and environmentalists are doing to find creative and groundbreaking ways to make our lives more sustainable.
Here they are. For a full list and bios of this year's Top 20 Under 20, click here.
Age at time of award: 16
Living as a child in a heavily polluted environment in China, Emma found breathing difficult and provoked her wish to create safe, effective chemical products. By grade 9, now living in Canada and volunteering in a pharmaceutical company lab, she discovered her love of organic chemistry and soon won a Youth Science Team Canada Award. Since 2009, Emma been developing a natural pesticide enhancer to minimize pesticide-resistance rates in insects, and thereby decrease the overall environmental impact of pesticides. With several firsts in science competitions, Emma attended the 2010 Intel ISEF in California, winning a fourth place in the Environmental Management category.
Age at time of award: 17
With firsts at national and international science fairs, Cody's ability to make effective presentations has been invaluable as he sheds new light on climate change. Cody’s research into this pressing issue takes an entirely new and to some, controversial, point of view: he examines the relationship between astronomy and climate change, a combination typically overlooked, if not ignored, by the scientific community. His theory of “Orbital Forcing” poses a relation between variations in the Earth’s orbit and long-term climatic change. It also attempts to correlate sunspot cycles to short-term climate change. Placing 1st overall at the 2009 Taiwan International Science Fair and the Australian National Youth Science Forum, Cody’s work is gaining acceptance and recognition.
Age at time of award: 19
A 2008 Manning Innovation Achievement Award winner, David has shown a passion for science, innovation and community involvement since childhood. In 2006, David designed an efficient, affordable alternative to silicon solar cells—a dye-sensitized organic solar cell that uses photosynthesis to create electrical energy at a higher rate of return. Sol-Tile is David’s latest invention, a thin-film solar tile using solar paint made from organic dyes, which can easily fit existing roofing. This tile offers an inexpensive, sustainable source of renewable energy for use around the world. The Patent and Trademark Office Society has awarded David with a patent citation for his breakthrough invention.
Age at time of award: 19
Yan Yu has put environmental innovation on the map at Queen’s University. As an intern with the Main Campus Resident’s Council (MCRC) Sustainability Office, Yan brought vision and energy to an indifferent Council. Successfully advocating the creation of a “Sustainability Coordinator” position, Yan promptly assumed the role and transformed MCRC into one of the greenest student governing bodies in Canada. He formed one of the largest environmental groups on campus, the MCRC Green Team, to tackle environmental issues like running a successful weekly campus clean-up crew, reducing cafeteria food wastage, installing indoor vegetable gardens, and establishing a worm-composting system in residence—the first of its kind in Canada. Here’s one measure of their success: in the first four months of the cleanup crew’s existence, recyclable waste collection increased by 57% over the whole of the previous year.