Meth and Toilets: Our Inventive Youth

Daniel Alfaro Carmona / PHOTO Howard Kang, UWMBMV

Today’s youth are an inventive bunch. Don’t get me wrong, the creativity of a young mind goes back throughout the ages from such historical child prodigies as Chopin, Gauss, Champollin, Picasso, and perhaps most famously Mozart. Today’s youth however seem somewhat different in their focus. No longer are they forwarding a field through extraordinary insight, rather they are inventing solutions to social problems around the globe.

A recent post by Fast Company, aptly named 5 Kids Who Are Using Science To Change The World, focuses on youth presenters from the Google Science Fair 2012. These teens have focused their efforts on making the world a more enjoyable, for some at least an inhabitable, place to live. The topics chosen by these young inventors speak to their social awareness: meth, toilets, deaf ears, energy, and competitiveness.

Clarity is their guiding principle. As I watched the videos of these youth, I was amazed how they can see the big picture, focus on a smaller problem, without becoming sidetracked or overwhelmed, and succinctly provide a viable solution.

I was equally floored when I worked at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley in Boston to promote the organization’s Youth Venture program (headed by Bret Carr). I sat in a room with several youth from Bikes Not Bombs who presented their idea for setting up bike repair shops around the city. Where many may see a chance to make a profit at another’s misfortune, these teens saw an opportunity to educate. Part of their proposal was to teach bike owners how to fix and maintain their own equipment so that they would not need to come back the next time they had a flat or their chain came off. At the end of the day, those teens and many other presenting groups received guidance and funding from United Way to breathe life into their proposals.

These teens are among many that show how to positively effect change by seizing an opportunity, taking ownership of it including its problems, and fixing it. It’s not necessarily about return business but rather realizing that we share a common bond, an ability to connect with others and help them, to trust that others will understand our passions, to share the power of knowledge with them, and to work for a better global community.

Here are some photos from a recent United Way Youth Venture project that were taken by Howard Kang. When I look at these, I am eager to hear what the subjects have to say and what I will learn from today’s youth.

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