This story comes to us from NBC Latino.
At 17-years-old, Javier Fernández-Han has earned the title of inventor and humanitarian. He’s just been named one of Forbes “30 under 30 Most Influential Americans” for energy innovation, and been recognized twice as one of the nation’s top high school inventors by Popular Science magazine. Three years ago, he also founded ‘Inventors without Borders’ as a way to bring innovative solutions to real-world problems in rural, poverty-stricken areas.
Javier is a bold lecturer who has spoken to audiences around the world and has won numerous competitions for his enterprising inventions. He was just 8-years-old when he won his first award for enterprising robot design using Legos and a computer chip.
“Once I realized I enjoyed inventing, I began to see how I could provide solutions to common problems,” said the Woodlands, Texas teen. “Inventing things became a way to help people.”
It’s clear that although Javier is a normal high school junior who likes to play ping pong with his younger brother, he’s also a gifted engineer whose inventions have begun to have a global impact.
One invention on his lengthy list of original creations is a system which uses algae and bacteria to produce renewable energy fuel and food for animal consumption. It’s a way for developing communities to utilize available resources – like sewage – to attain economic sustainability. Javier, who has been home-schooled his entire life, envisions this type of project as just one of the ways he makes his love of science and innovation come alive.
“I love tackling real problems because you have to make sense of random data and come up with an original solution,” says Javier, who has been featured in the Legacy Gallery for Science and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum for his work in creating solutions for developing communities and encouraging youth innovation.
In addition to organizing youth conferences like the annual TEDxYouth@TheWoodlands event (which gathers creative young minds to collaborate on innovative ideas by attending lectures and workshops,) Javier has created an educational curriculum called “Invent and Innovate.” With the help of his dad Peter, Javier has begun to pitch the curriculum to Houston area schools. Javier says that helping other kids pursue creativity and science will allow him to have a bigger impact on innovation than through his own individual efforts.
“I want to provide kids with the tools they need to come up with ideas,” explains Javier. “If I can help present those concepts in an easy, practical way to help them come up with solutions to problems they face on a daily basis, then that can have a huge impact for people living in places with need.”
Javier’s parents, Ester Fernández and Peter Han, say that they feel blessed by their son’s accomplishments but insist that his achievements are the product of creativity, which all kids have.
“All teenagers have potential to solve problems. My vision is that one day that what Javier does will be considered typical,” says Peter, who owns a creative learning company. “As parents, we can expect kids to be creative in everything they do. When you refrain from providing a quick answer or buying solutions to a kid’s boredom, you cultivate the expectation that your kids can, and will be creative.”
Ester, whose family emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico, said that reading to her kids and abstaining from television are practices she feels has empowered Javier and his 14-year-old brother Fabian, to fully pursue their passions.
Javier, who wants to study entrepreneurship and industrial design in college, says the desire to help others is what drives him to chase original solutions to difficult problems.
“What I’ve been doing so far are inventions that can only do so much and now I’m moving towards creative techniques that can help others,” says the wunderkind. “I hope that can help more people because it’s a more leveraging way of working.”
Nina Terrero is a reporter with NBC Latino
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