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They say children are our future, but the world’s youngest inventors are making an impact right now.
Scientists are boiling over with excitement after Xóchitl (soh-chee) Guadalupe Cruz López, who has competed in STEM competitions since she was four, was recognized for a scientific award at only eight years old. Her solar-powered, rooftop water heater is an impressive modern-day innovation that could soon help even low-income communities alleviate the harmful effects of climate change.
The youngest recipient of Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM) science prize recognizing women’s accomplishments in science, Xóchitl’s scientific achievements inspire learners across the globe.
Her interest in science began at a young age. When she was four years old, Xóchitl participated in scientific workshops and competitions hosted by PAUTA, or Adopt a Talent Program. Her work alongside other learners and Mexico’s knowledgeable mentors and experts sparked her idea to craft a solar-powered water heater using inexpensive, recycled materials.
Xóchitl constructed her design using whatever materials she could find. Empty PET bottles painted black, cable ties and a black hose were among her chosen tools. She even used the glass doors of a broken cooler as a way to create a greenhouse effect, trapping the sun's warmth. With the help of her father, Xóchitl installed her device atop her roof and successfully heated the bath water in her family’s home.
Xóchitl resides in Mexico’s most impoverished state of Chiapas. Almost a third of the state’s population lives in extreme poverty (Shvili 2021). To heat their homes, many must chop down trees and burn firewood. That’s why Xóchitl’s low-cost invention has the potential to help her neighbors and the planet at large significantly.
A lack of affordable heating options affects a community’s health and environment.
First, burning firewood often creates a surplus of smoke. While this method will adequately provide the necessary heat, prolonged inhalation of the smoke can lead to serious health issues. Solar-powered heaters eliminate this concern.
Furthermore, continuously gathering firewood depletes natural resources leading to deforestation. Chiapas, Mexico’s tropical climate makes this particularly troublesome for the environment. Rather than being found in the soil, it's often the trees themselves that contain the nutrients tropic trees require to grow. Cutting and removing these trees prohibits a thriving ecosystem by depleting it of necessary nutrients. Moreover, the loss of tropical forests is particularly devastating to the environment as they are equipped to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere (Kinhal 2019).
Again, solar-powered heaters not only solve this problem, but Xóchitl’s use of recycled materials helps reuse waste that would otherwise pollute the planet.
Just like Xóchitl, your learners have the potential to design problem-solving inventions using recycled materials. Encourage them to brainstorm issues facing their community. Whether you have them write about their eco-friendly solutions or even create a 3D model, you may inspire the next young innovator of our time!
Looking for a ready-made program that makes your learners feel like environmental engineering heroes? Check out our Build a Better World Enrichment Program designed for grades 4-6. Get them thinking about the environment as they collaborate on structural challenges centered around the earth’s most destructive natural disasters.
Leave a comment telling us who they are and the exciting ways their innovations influenced your instruction.
Click the links below to learn about more inspiring, diverse STEAM role models:
An experienced elementary educator and science instructional coach, Jessica’s passion for STEM instruction and student-led learning is always at the forefront of her lessons and professional development workshops.
Drewett, L. (n.d.). Pourquoi Princesse Super Girl Series: Xóchitl Guadalupe Cruz López, a young Mexican inventor. Pourquoi Princesse SAS. Retrieved September 30, 2022, from https://pourquoiprincesse.com/blogs/news/pourquoi-princesse-super-girl-series-xochitl-guadalupe-cruz-lopez-a-young-mexican-inventor
Hambleton, J. (2021, July 26). 8-year-old Mexican girl wins nuclear sciences prize for her invention. The Premier Daily. Retrieved September 30, 2022, from https://thepremierdaily.com/8-year-old-girl-invents-solar-powered-water-heater-and-wins-nuclear-sciences-prize/
Kinhal, V. (2019, March 18). What is biomass? which countries burn the most biomass? WorldAtlas. Retrieved September 30, 2022, from https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/20-countries-burning-the-most-waste-and-biomass-for-energy.html
Rueckert, P., & Sánchez, E. (2018, March 5). Mexican girl, 8, wins a nuclear science prize for Solar Heater. Global Citizen. Retrieved September 30, 2022, from https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/mexican-girl-science-prize-water-heater/
Shvili, J. (2021, January 11). The poorest states in Mexico. WorldAtlas. Retrieved September 30, 2022, from https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-poorest-states-in-mexico.html
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