6 Kids Who Changed The World Before They Turned 16

At a young age, children should learn not only to set goals, but also to believe in themselves and realize that they can accomplish great things in life. Maybe your child won’t write his first symphony at age eight like Mozart did, but these incredible examples of kids under 16 accomplishing amazing things should definitely help you inspire your children to reach for their dreams.

Malala Yousafzai

This incredible young Pakistani woman is an inspiration to people around the globe. Many believe it all started when she was shot by a Taliban assassin, but she actually started her activism long before that. Growing up in the shadow of the Taliban — which forbade girls from formal education of any kind — she incurred their wrath merely by writing an online blog about girls and education. She began when she was 11, and by 15 she was already recognized enough in her community that she was deliberately targeted as a warning to others. She survived being shot in the head and was airlifted to the UK for medical treatment. Now living in Britain and writing and lecturing about female education, she is the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, which she received in 2014 at the age of 17.

Jack Andraka

This young man was a typical American kid growing up until tragedy struck a friend. Though early detection could have made a difference, pancreatic cancer is not easily spotted until it is too far spread. But young Jack was not deterred. He worked out a method for detecting the presence of pancreatic cancer by looking for markers, or by-products, of cancer cells interacting with healthy ones. And at the age of 15, with the help of a Johns Hopkins researcher, he reported on his findings to the medical community with a test that is faster, cheaper, and more accurate than traditional testing methods. He is currently a student at Stanford University and has given many interviews on his discovery.

Ryan Hreljac

This incredible story started when Ryan was just six years old, and learned that kids in rural Africa had to walk miles every day to get water from the nearest well. He decided to raise money to build a well closer to a town so the kids wouldn’t have to walk so far. He did chores and fundraisers (remember, he was six) and sent the money to organizations that build water wells, and funded his first well in Uganda in 1999. But he kept raising money, and eventually founded his own organization, the Ryan’s Well Foundation, at the ripe old age of 10. So far he has completed nearly a thousand separate projects, resulting in clean water access for nearly a million people in 16 countries. Today, at 26, he still works with the foundation as both spokesperson and project manager, and speaks around the world about clean water access.

Ann Makosinski

She was just a 15 year old Canadian teen on a trip to the Philippines when she learned that many of her friends were unable to study because of a lack of available light, since they studied at night and had no electricity wired into the house. She ended up inventing a biothermal flashlight – one that gets its energy from the body heat of the person holding it – and won the Google Science Fair in 2013 with it. Not only does this invention provide light, it reduces hazardous waste of batteries in landfills. But she didn’t stop there. She’s also invented a device called eDrink, which charges up handheld devices by converting a hot drink’s heat into energy (and also cooling the drink in the process). She’s continuing to invent ways to produce energy without waste and has given a series of successful TED talks about the subject.

Easton LaChappelle

At the age of 14, this Colorado teen built a robotic hand for a science fair in 2011, made with fishing wire and LEGOs, for which he won a third place prize. This may not sound like an auspicious beginning, but wait — while at the fair he met a 7-year-old girl who was very interested in his display. She had a prosthetic hand, but it had been extremely expensive to get, nearly $80,000. That seemed ridiculous to the teen, who then set out to solve the problem of accessibility versus affordability. His solution was to design and build a prosthetic that could be made with a 3D printer. Materials cost would be less than $400, and rather than selling his design for massive profit, he made his printing patterns free and open source for anyone to access and use. This brought him to the attention of NASA, which asked him to be part of their Robonaut team. No doubt this is not the last we shall hear of him.

Samantha Smith

Many kids write to public officials, but in the 1980s Samantha did something no one else did — she wrote to then-Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov and asked why the U.S. and Russia couldn’t be friends. The letter was published in Pravda, the official Soviet newspaper, and Andropov sent a reply inviting her and her family to come to Russia for a friendly visit. She accepted the offer, and was dubbed “America’s Youngest Ambassador.” This brought her more fame, and in 1984 she was an official news correspondent to the Disney Channel, covering the U.S. Presidential election. But she died tragically in a plane crash in 1985 at age 13. She was mourned in both the U.S. and Russia as a true citizen diplomat.