In order to succeed, you need to look at everything with your own unique perspective. When you think, you have to think in your own creative way—not accepting everything that’s already out there.
What I’d like you to do is: I’d like you to go into some field—you all have some passion, you all know what it is—so I want you to think about that field instead of learning about that field. Instead of being a student of that field, be the field—whether it’s music, or architecture, or science, or whatever.
From 13-year-old physicist Jacob Barnett’s talk at TEDxTeen, “Forget What You Know.” At age two, he was diagnosed with autism, and doctors expected he would never speak or even tie his shoes. By age nine, he’d already built a series of mathematical models that expanded Einstein’s theory of relativity.
Jacob, now 15, is the youngest student at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. His mom recently emailed us with her thoughts about his talk: “I am so proud of the fact that he did [a TEDx talk] with autism. To me, it has been one of his biggest breakthroughs!”
You’re smart. Possibly even brilliant. But we’re willing to bet that you’ve got nothing on these kids. (Believe us, we don’t either.)
See, these kids rule. They’re developing mathematical theories before they hit puberty, teaching computers to diagnose breast cancer, analyzing air pollutants, and finding ways to prevent carcinogens forming in grilled chicken. Because what else would you do in grade school?
So to give us all a little hope for the future — 5 TEDx talks from kids who are way smarter than the rest of us:
1. The 10-year-old Princeton student / astrophysicist: Jacob Barnett
At age two, boy genius Jacob Barnett was diagnosed with autism, and doctors told his parents he may never talk or learn. By age nine, not only could he talk and learn, he had already built a series of mathematical models that expanded Einstein’s theory of relativity. He’s funny and boisterous and totally freaking brilliant.
2. The girl who taught a computer to diagnose breast cancer … in middle school: Brittany Wenger
When most of us were cutting out pictures from magazines or stressing about soccer team tryouts, teen wunderkind Brittany Wegner was teaching a computer to diagnose breast cancer. That impressive feat required 600 hours of coding and 7.6 million trials, and has the potential to save millions of lives. So…NBD, really.
3. iPhone app developer … and 6th grader: Thomas Suarez
Most 12-year-olds love playing video games, but Thomas Suarez went a step beyond. He taught himself how to create them. After developing popular iPhone apps like “Bustin Jeiber,” a whack-a-mole game, Thomas is now using his skills to help other kids learn to become developers — that is, when he’s not hanging out with MakerBot co-founder and TED Fellow Bre Pettis.
4. The high school student who created a new way to detect cancer … before he could vote: Jack Andraka
While other kids were struggling to memorize the periodic table or master the structure of DNA, Jack Andraka was busy isolating proteins, reading research papers, and, you know, developing a test to detect pancreatic cancer: one that takes only 3 cents to run and runs at a nearly 100% accuracy rate. Kinda impressive, we think. .
5. Three girls who fight carcinogens, asthma, and chemotherapy resistance in their free time: Lauren Hodge, Shree Bose, Naomi Shah
Here’s a trio of science superstars for you: Lauren Hodge discovered how crafty cooking can stop carcinogenic compounds forming in grilled chicken; Shree Bose spent 12 years researching how cancer patients develop resistance to chemotherapy drugs; and Naomi Shah discovered new ways to approach asthma after analyzing indoor air pollutants, air quality, and lung health. Isn’t that what everyone does in their free time?