A 17-year-old inventor from Texas, Javier Fernández-Han, the son of immigrants from China and Mexico, was named one of "Forbes' 30 under 30" this year, for his inventive use of algae to digest sewage and capture methane for use as fuel. The young scientist's success comes as many worry that America is losing it's competitive edge in math and science.
At only 14 years old, Fernández-Han founded an organization called "Inventors without Borders" with aims to "bring innovative solutions to real-world problems in rural, poverty-stricken areas," according to a report by NBC Latino. And as many bemoan the loss of America's innovative edge with the decline of quality math and science education in schools, Fernández-Han is recognized as one of the nation's top high school inventors by Popular Science magazine for the second year in a row.
Javier's father, Peter Han, attributes his son's success in part to the emphasis as parents Han and his wife placed on creativity and innovation. Javier's father is the owner of a creative learning company, and has even given a TED talk on the value of innovation in raising children. The father and son duo are even co-developing "a series of toolkits and learning programs to invent better ideas faster", according to the TED YouTube channel.
Although Latinos lag nationally in science and engineering fields, Fernandez-Han finds himself alongside some of America's greatest innovators -- the children of immigrants.
This week, HuffPost LatinoVoices reported the success story of a Latina high school student, who learned she was a semifinalist in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search while living with her family in a homeless shelter.
Other great Latino scientists include Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman in space and co-inventor of three patents for optical systems for automated space exploration, who is now the Deputy Director of the Johnson Space Center.
Eloy Rodriguez is the Mexican-American biochemist is credited for the concept of zoopharmoacognosy.
The American engineer and NASA astronaut, Jose Moreno Hernandéz, worked alongside his Mexican family as farmworkers in the fields of California. He announced his bid for congress in LatinoVoices last year.
And, finally, the Alvarez family has had a number of contributions to the field. Luis Fernandez Alvarez, credited with discovering a better diagnosis of macular leprosy, was the father of Walter C. Alvarez, the founder of electrogastrophy, and the grandfather of Luis Walter Alvarez, a physicist and Nobel Prize winner.
Fernandez-Han hopes to tackle some of the world's hardest problems with his inventions. His recent work would convert energy from food scraps and sewage into clean energy for families in the third world.
"I like inventing. So I applied that to actually trying to help the poor with my inventions," he said in an interview on YouTube.
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