Read about some of the kids who pushed science and technology further in 2011, in such fields as astronomy, astrophysics, computer security, and mobile game development.
If children are the future, then we'll all need shades because it's looking so bright. Science is gaining popularity with children, and geeky kids are making important contributions to science at an increasing rate. These future leaders aren't waiting until they're grown to get in on important science discoveries. From space exploration to physics, here's a roundup of some of the year's most amazing geek kids.
- A new record was broken this year for youngest person to discover a supernova. Early this year, 10-year-old Kathryn Gray found a supernova when studying a space image taken by an amateur astronomer on New Year's Eve. The supernova is named 2010lt and is located in the UGC 3378 galaxy. Kathryn was inspired to hunt for exploding stars when she heard about a 14-year-old finding one in 2010. Though the title of youngest person ever to find a supernova belongs to her alone, Kathryn shares credit for the find with her father and David Lane, the man who took the image.
- Einstein's theory of relativity is getting some help from 12-year Jacob Barnett, whose IQ measures at 170. Jacob is expanding Einstein's theory and is currently working to solve some of the most difficult problems in astrophysics. If Jacob pulls it off, he will likely earn a Nobel Prize, which would make him the youngest Nobel Laureate ever.
- The Grand Prize winner of this year's Google Science Fair is teenager Shree Bose, whose project unlocked a key component of cancer cell resistance to the common chemotherapeutic drug Cisplatin. Shree's research may improve cancer treatments, as scientists build on her finding that the metabolic enzyme AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) does not act correctly in the body during chemotherapy treatments, thereby making it difficult for healthy cells to divide.
- Athletes can play more safely thanks to the winner of the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. 14-year-old Braeden Benedict created a device that detects concussions in athletes.
- Computer security took a hit when a 10-year-old gamer who goes by CyFi took an opportunity at DefCon 19 Kids to point out a new zero-day vulnerability class in game timing on mobile devices.
- Bubble Ball is among the most popular mobile device games this year. It's so popular in fact that for several weeks it beat out Angry Birds' download numbers. Bubble Ball is a physics simulator where players must get a ball to its destination while manipulating physics. But what is really neat about Bubble Ball is that it was written by 14-year-old Robert Nay. Robert already had some practice in computer programming, but creating a physics simulator for mobile devices is fairly complex work. Robert's Mom helps with the business work, and was honored to draw a couple of the game's boards. Robert has plans to expand the game with purchasable content.
- Robert Nay isn't the youngest app developer to make the headlines this year. 7-year-old Conner Zamary designed the mobile device game Toaster Pop. While Conner did not write the code himself, he did hire a firm to do so, with little help from adults. Conner likely won't hold the youngest app designer title for long -- his little sister is already working on her own.
- 8-year-old Aaron and his Daddy won a Parsec Award for "Aaron's World," a podcast that makes science accessible to children. Aaron really loves dinosaurs, and does all the research for the podcasts himself. Daddy is tasked mostly with making the sound effects that make the podcast so lively.
- 11-year-old Brett showed us that you don't have to be an Apple employee to change your own iPhone battery.
- Teenager Rocco Buttliere has a future in engineering, or perhaps toy creation. Rocco's hobby is creating 1:650 models of skyscrapers using LEGO® building blocks (see a photo of his creations below). Inspired by Spencer Rezkalla's designs, Rocco researches architecture and uses computer software to plan his projects. His dream is to become a LEGO set designer after college.
Photo courtesy Rocco Buttliere
Congratulations, and thanks to all the kids who pushed science and technology further this year, and for proving that you don't have to wait until you grow up to contribute something big.
We'd love to read more examples of kids doing exciting things in science or technology. If you know of any geeky kids that you want to spotlight here, please tell us about them in the discussion.