Meet Your New Favorite Teenaged Scientist

Peyton Robertson has a lot on his mind.

The 13 year-old Florida native has a knack for identifying real-world problems and crafting clever solutions. He’s got three patents pending, including retractable training wheels for bicycles and a case that maintains a golf ball’s resting temperature.

But it was another of Peyton’s inventions, a ‘sandless operational sandbag’ that helps address dangerous flooding near his Fort Lauderdale home, that netted him first place in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge in 2013.

His prize? $25,000, a trip to Costa Rica, and a whole lot of well-deserved recognition. He even wound up on The Ellen Degeneres Show.

Better still, our friends over at TED talked with Peyton last month about his inventions, his philosophy, and his future. There is an almost unbelievable amount of wisdom in this very short interview. Here are a few choice moments:

On how he became interested in science: “I actually didn’t so much become interested in science as a stand-alone subject as I became interested in the science behind other things I was working on and was curious about. For example, if you love baseball, consider what makes a curve ball curve. If you love movies, consider how special effects work. If you are interested in cooking, think about light waves in a microwave.”

On his advice for other young people who might want to get involved with local (or global) issue: Start by listing all the problems that affect the area in which you live. Odds are those problems will be more interesting to you, provide more local resources to access, and ultimately prove to be issues with a broad global impact.

On the one thing he wishes everyone knew: Failure is progress and a normal part of the process. Whether it’s science or life, you have to start, fail and just keep pushing. In a football game, time runs out, and a golf match ends after the last hole. But when you are working on something and it doesn’t work, you just extend the game – and give your experiment or your prototype another go.

Pretty amazing, right? And, again, just to be clear . . . Peyton is not even old enough to drive.

For more about the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, go this way. For more from the TED Young Voices Series, go that way. And to share news about a student that you feel deserves recognition, contact us here.

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