Real Genius: Eight Brilliant Inventors Still in High School

While their peers worry about zits, these rising young stars are designing lunar bioreactors and new cancer drugs. What did you accomplish before turning 18? Meet our eight future Edisons here
Poster of Inventor Daniel Asturias
Invention: Industrial-Strength Geothermal Generator Quadrilingual by age three, Daniel Asturias showed his innovative spark early on. He set up contraptions around the house and pursued unusual hobbies like building chain-mail armor and pruning bonsai trees. He's also self-taught in differential equations, theoretical physics and thermoacoustics. This year, Asturias and his teammate Isaac Harwell designed an underwater geothermal complex for geyser-like heat vents. The prospective system would have 150 generators placed over the vents, and each one could produce at least 45 megawatts of energy, adding up to some 6.8 gigawattsa€” or as much energy as three nuclear power plants. Little work has been done using these ocean vents because they sit on fault lines miles below the surface, making them expensive to access. Asturias's design has no moving parts and requires little maintenance, which would eliminate repair trips. The project won first place and $10,000 at this year's prestigious Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation high-school invention competition. GPA: 3.9; weighted 4.45
SAT Score: 2200 (out of 2400)
Patents: One pending
College: He's been offered full tuition to the University of Texas. Jon Arvizu

Every year, instead of prepping for prom or hanging out at the mall, thousands of high-school students are busy in labs, basements and classrooms finding fresh solutions to age-old problems. We’ve scoured the country to find the brightest among them, settling on eight teen talents who make Thomas Edison (whose first patented invention didn’t come until the ripe old age of 21) look like a late bloomer.

Meet them here in our gallery

Take 18-year-old Philip Streich. His method for untangling carbon nanotubes may well pave the way to the creation of a space elevator. Daniel Asturius’s geothermal energy generator could produce three times as much power as a nuclear plant. Samantha Hopkins? After she built her own log cabin at the age of nine, she went on to design a lunar chamber that can grow food without soil, self-heal punctures, and shrink to the size of a backpack for easy portability.

Anne Swift, the founder of Young Inventors International, an organization that helps inventors develop, patent, and license their inventions, says that youth, far from being a handicap, often works to inventors’ advantage. “Young innovators might not realize what is possible, so they tend to dream big,” she says. “They look at it and say, Wow, we can do this.”

Here, meet some of the most promising youth to hit the invention scene, and find out which institutions of higher learning will lay claim to their genius.

Launch the gallery here

Poster of Inventor Philip Streich
Poster of young inventor Tyler Moser
Poster of Inventor Preya Shah
Poster of Inventor Javier Fernandez-Han
Poster of Inventor William Yuan
Poster of Inventor Samantha Hopkins
Inventor Michael Vawter