What were you doing when you were 13-years-old? Most people were likely reading or adventuring outdoors. While Maanasa Mendu certainly does that, much of her time is spent developing clean technology which can harness green energy.
Recently, Mendu won the grand prize in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge for inventing cost-effective “solar leaves” which create energy. Not only did she win the title of America’s Top Young Scientist, she received $25,000 for her efforts.
The Ohio-based resident invented leaves specifically for developing areas in need of cheaper power sources. Each costs just $5 to make. Reportedly, she wanted to find a cheaper way to produce clean energy after visiting India. There, she saw people lacking access to basic necessities, including clean water and electricity.
For three months, Mendu and nine other finalists worked on their projects with the aid of mentors provided by 3M. Her original intention as to harness only wind energy. That changed over time, however. When the 13-year-old first entered the competition, this is what her project looked like:
After working with her mentor, Margauz Mitera, she decided to broaden the design. Drawing inspiration from how plants function, Chengo developed solar leaves that harness vibrational energy. The leaves pick up energy from precipitation, wind and even sunlight by using a solar cell and piezoelectric material. All are transformed into usable energy.
Months of hard work resulted in the following product:
Now that the competition is over, the pre-teen is ambitious to develop the prototype further. She wants to conduct more tests so that one day, it can be made available commercially.