Indian Origin Teen Is ‘America’s Top Young Scientist’

Ria Das
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Maanasa Mendu - ‘America’s Top Young Scientist’

Who would think that a 13-year-old student could solve India's energy crisis one day? Yes, you heard it right! Maanasa Mendu, 13, has the answer that could change India’s future, forever.


The Indo-American science prodigy, Mendu studies at William Mason High School in Mason, Ohio, and has recently won the 2016 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge and the prestigious title ‘America’s Top Young Scientist’. Mendu won against nine other finalists for inventing a cost-effective technology to create energy from the leaves of solar light. Her prize included a cheque of $25,000 to help with her future projects.

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“This has been an amazing journey, and a great learning experience. Along the way, I have learned so much about the process of innovation. Innovation is more than just a light bulb moment, it’s rather a continuous expansion, very much like our universe,” Mendu said in a blogpost.

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">WATCH the teenage scientist's video here

The solar leaves function exactly like plants and generate energy from nature. Equipped with highly sophisticated and refined technology, the device costs only $5. Mendu’s aim is to provide electricity to the world in an environment friendly and cost-effective way.

Mendu specializes in the field of piezoelectric materials, those that generate electricity from mechanical energy.

The seeds of innovation were planted in Mendu's mind when she visited her grandparents in rural India. During the trip, she did not miss to notice the fact that electricity was a big issue there, almost every day. That's when she hit upon the unique idea to generate water and energy.

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“For me, it’s terrible since I have no access to lighting or air-conditioning,” she says, adding, “But I realized that for nearly 1.2 billion people in the world, this type of darkness is a reality. And they still use kerosene lighting,” as reported by Smithsonian.


The Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge gives opportunity to 10 finalists to work in the field of developing innovative technology annually along with their mentors. Mendu was mentored by Margaux Mitera, a senior product development engineer in 3M’s Stationery and Office Supplies Division. The competition is for grades 5 to 8, and the innovative thinker who would come up with a solution to an everyday problem that make lives easier wins.

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The top four of the competition included Mendu, Rohan Wagh, Amelia Day and Kaien Yang.

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