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Ann Makosinski: Tinkering with Light

Ann Makosinski was a born inventor. At 15, she found out that there was a growing energy crisis, so she used her creativity to invent a new kind of flashlight.

This podcast is a production of Rebel Girls. It’s based on the book series Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. This story was produced by Olivia Riçhard with sound design and mixing by Bianca Salinas. It was written by Emily McMahon-Wattez and edited by Abby Sher. Fact-checking by Joe Rhatigan. Narration by Jenise Morgan. Original theme music was composed and performed by Elettra Bargiacchi. Thank you to the whole Rebel Girls team who make this podcast possible. Stay rebel!

Transcript

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Ann Makosinski who was proud to call herself a differentist.

A what? Yep, you heard that right. Ann made up that word because she loved being different.

She grew up surrounded by spectacular green mountain vistas in Victoria, Canada and she spent a lot of time exploring the leafy island, trying to come up with new inventions.

Ann’s parents didn’t buy her many toys but they always encouraged her creativity and imagination. When she was just two, Ann’s parents gave her a box of transistors, springs and knickknacks. She created her own toys with bits of wire and tape, cardboard and magazines, even cool things she rescued from the trash!
Ann wore baggy t-shirts and glasses, and with her short dark hair, kids sometimes teased her saying she looked like Harry Potter. Ann didn’t care though. She was too busy piecing together her next masterpiece. Ann’s first inventions didn’t actually do anything, but in her mind they could move and buzz and change the world. She loved explaining to her parents (or anyone who’d listen) how each creation worked. She was determined that one day her imagination and creativity would help solve a real world problem.
Ann’s mother was Filipino, and many of her relatives still lived in the Philippines – a country made up of thousands of tiny tropical islands, all the way in Southeast Asia. Ann loved visiting her family in the Philippines. She played tag and soccer with her relatives, running and giggling with them all around her family’s small village.
Life in the Philippines didn’t look much like Ann’s life in Canada. The language was different, and so was some of the food… but what struck Ann most was how many people in the village didn’t have things she took for granted back home… like running water, and even electricity.
One day, when Ann was back in Canada, she got a message from a friend in the Philippines…

*Ping

“Ann! I’m at an internet café. I wanted to say hi!” her friend wrote.

*Swoosh

“I miss you! How are you?”

*Ping

“I’m ok, but… I failed my grade this year.”

*Swoosh

“What!? How!?” Ann was shocked – her friend was really smart, and studied hard in school.

*Ping

“I just couldn’t study, because by the time I finished my chores each night, it was too dark to read my books.”

Ann was outraged to think that just because her friend didn’t have electricity, she’d failed her whole grade. It wasn’t fair! Ann started reading more about the world’s energy sources and learned there were over 940 million people who lived without electricity. What? Ann felt like she had to make something that could help change this. So, she did more research and started tinkering with various parts that could harness energy… like solar tiles (which turn sunlight into electricity) or Peltier <pell-TEA-yay> tiles, (which can create energy when one side of the tile is heated while the other is cooled).

And then… Ann had an amazing idea…

*SwooshPingBeep!

It took two years of research and experimenting for Ann to turn this idea into an actual invention, but one day, when she was fifteen…

Ann was in her workshop, all of her attention focused on the tube in her hands.

Here we go…This has to work.
She felt a nervous rush of excitement as she screwed the last pieces together. Ann’s tube was lined with Peltier <pell-TEA-yay> tiles, one of those energy harnessing tools she’d been fiddling with for years. It also had an LED light bulb at one end.

The question was, would it light up without any batteries or electricity?

Ann switched out the overhead light and placed her hand over the tube, lining up her palm onto just the right spot, and then…the bulb began to glow!
Yes!

She’d done it! She’d used the heat from her own hand to power a handmade flashlight!
Yes, Yes YES!

Ann was so thrilled, she felt like the light was coming from inside her! She couldn’t wait to tell her friend in the Philippines! Her human powered flashlight would be easy to manufacture, it didn’t need electricity or batteries, and it actually worked!
Ann submitted her flashlight to the Google Science fair, one of the biggest science contests in the whole world — and she won!

Soon, Ann was invited to show off her invention all over the globe. She was called a world changer in Time Magazine, and she gave talks about science and technology internationally. All before she even graduated high school!

But Ann knew that she had much more to explore — both in science and in herself. Today, Ann is still creating new inventions. She’s also studying acting and writing a book, because…why not?

Fueled by her imagination and her passion for solving problems, Ann continues to dream up new ideas everyday.

As Ann says, “It’s really about taking that crazy, creative idea you have and not being afraid to follow it through.”

By daring herself to dream big and believing in her wildest ideas, Ann is shining a light for the whole world. Because each of us can be a “differentist”. All we have to do is harness our energy, courage, and inspiration.