The teenager who won me over

Javier Fernandez-Han, 17, may not be of Justin Bieber fame but he’ll win over your admiration. Instead of platinum hits, the Mexican-Chinese teen is off saving the world and joining the fight in poverty with his inventions.

Forbes recently named him among their 30 Under 30 for his clever invention that uses algae to turn sewage into renewable energy and food for animals. It saves lives because the concept can be used to turn waste in remote and impoverished communities into animal feed.

The recognition alone is quite impressive, except that Javier has been at this for a while. Javier makes us all feel like underachievers! He has a long list of accolades and prizes that go back to when he was eight, when the robot he designed with Legos and a computer chip won a competition. At fourteen, Javier also founded Inventors without Borders to come up with game-changing solutions to social issues like poverty.


As a mother, a Latina, and a journalist who covered innovation, I was often dismayed by the dismal number of Latinos who chose math and science as a career path. It makes me a sucker for Javier’s success.

If you consider, that, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields are slated to grow about 22% between 2004 and 2014, Javier is on an excellent track.

Our family considered the future of job growth and what we saw on CNN’s The New Promised Land: Silicon Valley, part of Soledad O’Brien’s Black in America series, when we signed our son up for an interactive way to code online at . With that coding knowledge, our son will eventually be able to make applications or games if he wants. At the very least, it opens up the doors to something new.

Take a close look at your child. You may have the next astronaut, Nobel Peace Prize winner, or Mark Zuckerberg staring right back at you. Let’s do what we can to steer our children to lead innovative and creative lives!

Do you find Javier Fernandez-Hans inspiring? How do you encourage your child to express creativity?

Image via YouTube