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13-Year-Old Invents Cheap, Award-Winning Clean Energy Device

Tuesday, October 25, 2016 6:55
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Natural Society

On October 19, 13-year-old student Maanasa Mendu was awarded the grand prize in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge for developing a cost-effective device that uses solar and wind power to create energy. [1]

Her “solar leaves” device earned her the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist,” as well as a $25,000 prize.

Mendu, a 9th grader at William Mason High School in Ohio, was inspired by a visit to India where she discovered that many people lacked basic life necessities such as clean water and lighting.

According to, World Bank estimates show most water sources in India are contaminated by sewage and agricultural runoff. Access to drinking water has improved somewhat, but about 21% of communicable diseases in that country are related to unsafe water. In India, diarrhea causes more than 1,600 deaths per day.

The student’s first design harnessed only wind energy when she entered the competition. The initial design secured her a place as a finalist in the challenge, and cost just $5 to make. Over the summer, Mendu participated in a mentorship program, along with 9 other finalists. [2]

During that time, Mendu worked with Margauz Mitera, a 3M senior product development engineer, in developing a more advanced system inspired by how plants function.

The “solar leaves” harness vibrational energy, gleaning energy from rain, wind, and the sun using a solar cell and piezoelectric material. This material is the part of the “leaf” that picks up on the vibrations, which are then transformed into usable energy. [3]



The device creates energy in virtually any type of weather.

Mendu would like to scale up her creation, dubbed HARVEST, for commercial distribution.


[1] EcoWatch

[2] Business Insider

[3] Inhabitat

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