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Javier Fernández-Han, Young Inventor, Named One Of Forbes' 30 Under 30 (VIDEO)

First Posted: 01/24/2012 8:41 am Updated: 01/25/2012 11:37 am


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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  • Spiritual Healing

    Patrons shop at the botanica San Lazarito in Jackson Heights, Queens. From New York to Los Angeles, from Chicago to Miami, particularly in hard economic times, shops specializing in the rituals of Afro-Caribbean and Meso-American religions offer a glimpse into how some of the latest arrivals to a nation of immigrants pursue their dreams

  • Religious Retail

    Botanicas are spiritual superstore of herbs, candles, oils, perfumes, baths, incense, animal skulls and amulets used in the rituals of Afro-Caribbean and Meso-American religions. <a href="" target="_hplink"> Flickr Photo by ydshu </a>

  • Love Potion

    Odette Pichardo points out a hot-selling love potion at from her botanica in the Washington Heights section of New York.

  • Candles For Good Luck

    With the unemployment rate for Latinos at least two percentage points higher than the national average, many turn to spiritual tradition. Botanica shelves are stacked with fast-selling "Money Drawing Spell Kits," "Success" candles, and "Steady Work" and "Mr. Money" oils and colognes. <a href="" target="_hplink">Flickr photo by Listen Missy!</a>

  • One For Every Prayer

    No one knows exactly how many botanicas there are in the country. There are no formal licensure requirements or trade associations for shops that are part spiritual center, part religious supply house, part alternative medicine dispensary.

  • Looking For The Perfect Concoction

    Shoppers survey the wares at a botanica in Miami, Florida.

  • Sprays For Worship

    Spray cans of oils used in the adoration of Santeria deities and other religious figures such as La Virgen De Guadalupe and Jude Thaddeus line the shelves of a Botanica store in Miami, Florida.

  • Tropical Botanica

    Olga Santiago Ocana chats with a customer in her botanica in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

  • Alternative Medicine

    Botanicas offer many products for spiritual rituals, including herbs and roots to prepare medicinal teas and baths, including the ancient herb hyssop, saw palmetto extract and red clover. <a href="" target="_hplink">Flickr photo by leicahooligan </a>

  • Botanica Dreams

    Money has been an issue for the Botanica trade, which has not been spared by the bad economy. Still, some smaller botanicas survive, such as this one in northern Manhattan. <a href="" target="_hplink">Flickr photo by Paul Lowry </a>


Filed by Cristina Costantini  |