9 Breakthroughs That Made The World Better

Perk up, underachiever. There’s still time for you to catch up to these relative youngsters you probably didn’t know were up to such good. Dare to do more, and Dare2GoDeep with The Economist. Read on to find out about these gamechangers all over the globe.

1. Creating A Fake Brain To Cure Cancer

In 2012, at age 17, Brittany Wenger took top honors at the Google Science Fair for the invention of a program that would enable doctors to use less invasive methods for detecting breast cancer, based on an artificial neural network that she coded herself for over 600 hours. Preliminary research for the project began when she was in middle school.

2. Transforming Excessive Waste Into Energy

William Kamkwamba will be a graduate of Dartmouth College in 2014, but his innovations precede him. He’s the subject of the 2009 best-selling book “The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind,” which chronicles his pursuits in turning trash into a power-generating windmill in his native country, Malawi, at age 15. The breakthrough resulted in a buildout of wind, water, and solar power that sustains his entire home community.

Robert Cohen / AP

3. Walking A (Thousand) Mile(s) In Others’ Shoes

In 2010, four Miami Dade College Students - all ambitious dedicated students and undocumented immigrants - embarked on a journey dedicated to changing the face of U.S. immigration reform, walking from Florida to the Nation’s Capital. Traveling up “The Trail of Dreams” has created careers in immigration advocacy for its participants, like 24-year-old Evelyn Rivera, who now trains other youths on how to apply for citizenship.

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

4. Saying Everything You Want Without Saying Anything

College freshman Luis Fernando Cruz is the creator of the Eyeboard - an open source tracking system that enables the physically disabled to electronically communicate by way of moving the eyeballs. His special twist? Cruz specifically built a low-fi model of the technology that costs significantly less so it’s easily accessible and functional in developing countries, like his native Honduras.

5. Beating Tech Titans At Their Own Game

Sareddy Chiman Prakash developed his own fully functional and incredibly affordable tablet PC called Ave, with no formal IT or development training, as a prodigal first-year engineering student at age 16. His patent was acquired and manufactured by a British technology distributor, and he’s now developing technology that limits digital piracy.

6. Creating Community Among The Disbanded

Manyang Kher belongs to the Lost Boys of Sudan - a network of 20,000 children displaced and orphaned during the country’s civil war that concluded in 2005. As Southern Sudan grows as its own country, Kher created the award-winning Humanity Helping Sudan, a organization that raises awareness and provides resources to help the area and its families functionally grow from the ground-up.

Christopher Polk / Getty Images

7. Connecting Do-Gooders The World Over

Now a student at Stanford, Priyanka Jain founded the advocacy-focused social networking platform iCAREweCARE, which helps the digitally-savvy connect over causes they care about, and outlets to get out and support those causes in their local communities. It already includes active users from Turkey, Greece, India, and the UK in addition to the U.S.

8. Illuminating The Future With Green Energy Education

Jim Payne and a small coalition of Colorado colleagues founded BOULD - a company that addresses the “green” education gap by creating LEED-certified building projects in low-income communities, and providing workshops for anyone eager to move into the burgeoning space. Their program currently operates in 8 states with hundreds having completed workforce training for an energy-efficient future.

9. Correcting The Experts’ Typos

Thomas Herndon, a grad student at UMass-Amherst, recently prepared an academic deep-dive into the correlations between public debt and economic growth. In doing so, he discovered an error in the Excel calculations of two prominent Harvard professors, and essentially proved that the tense state of global economic austerity is all being built upon a bogus typo, and a handful more of omitted data.

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