Her body-heat-powered flashlight could illuminate thousands of lives in developing countries
Credit: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

Ann Makosinski was just 16 when she won a local science fair with her invention, a flashlight powered solely by hand heat. One Google science fair later, she’s on her way to changing the world.

Two years ago, Makosinski was inspired by a friend in the Philippines who didn’t have electricity – the girl told Ann she couldn’t complete her homework and was failing in school.

So Ann began experimenting with Peltier tiles, which produce an electrical current when opposite sides are heated and cooled at the same time. She said she’d heard people described as “walking 100-watt lightbulbs,” and became inspired to use body heat as an energy source. “We have so much energy just radiating out of us, and it’s totally being wasted,” she told ABC News.

Ann spent months working on the project; her patent-pending design uses a transformer of her own creation. Incredibly, the project only took second place at her local science fair.

But a teacher at her school convinced her to submit the project to Google’s 2013 Science Fair, and after being named a finalist in September, she traveled to the company’s headquarters.

Ann picked up a $25,000 scholarship prize for winning her age group. Since her win, she’s given three TEDx talks and appeared on The Tonight Show.

While Ann’s invention needs some tweaks to be market-ready (it only puts out 24 lumens; some commercial flashlight outputs can be in the hundreds of lumens), she says she’s more focused on helping people than turning a profit: “I want to make sure my flashlight is available to those who really need it.”

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