5. The Junkyard Genius
Garrett Yazzie, 16
Garret Yazzie wasn't trying to become a teenage celebrity when he invented a solar home heater out of a 1967 Pontiac radiator and 69 aluminum soda cans. The then-13-year-old was merely trying to heat his family's trailer on Arizona's Navajo Indian Reservation, which had no running water and limited electricity.
That invention garnered Yazzie national attention. He won first place at the 2005 Arizona American Indian Science and Engineering Fair and was one of 40 finalists (out of 7500 applicants) to attend the Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge in Washington, D.C. Arizona State University created a scholarship in his name; and last April, ABC's Extreme Makeover TV show presented his family with a new house.
But Garrett wasn't done. The next year, he invented a water wheel using an industrial-size cable spool connected to a 10-speed bicycle and an alternator. The wheel produced enough electricity to power a refrigerator or light up a mountain cabin. Once again, he won the American Indian science fair and placed as a semifinalist in the Discovery Channel challenge.
At the challenge, Garrett met the Pierz family, who offered to take him in and provide a better education than he could get at home. Now 16, he's a sophomore at a private prep school in Clarkston, Michigan. But he hopes to return to Arizona and build a business that designs and sells alternative energy devices.
"I also want to build my business on the reservation to create jobs and futures for other kids just like me," says Yazzie. "I want those kids to know that if they get a good education they can find a good job on the reservation, near their families. I want to also remind people that living in harmony with our environment, with Mother Earth and Father Sky is not only a good idea; it is the only way that is sustainable long-term."