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Meet the fifth grader turning water bottles into light bulbs to brighten communities

August 16th, 2017

Schools in Latin America and around the world are searching for ways to take student impact beyond the classroom. In Mexico, we wanted to explore how teachers and students are using technology to empower a rising generation of innovative changemakers—and this week, we’re sharing some of the stories we found. Tune into the hashtag #innovarparami to see how education leaders in Latin America are thinking about innovation.

Twelve-year-old Bryan Gonzalez was traveling through a neighborhood near his school when the unlit windows of several homes caught his attention. When his parents and teachers explained to him that those homes lacked electricity, he started to search for information about access to lighting in communities in Mexico and around the globe. His research led him to discover that nearly 15 percent of the world’s population lives without light.

Believing that every community deserves access to commodities as basic as lighting, Bryan decided to turn his annual school science project into a mission to defeat darkness. With the support of his peers, teachers and parents, Bryan began to brainstorm sustainable, affordable methods to illuminate the world around him.

His solution? Converting water bottles into light bulbs!

Bryan recently implemented his prototype in the field for the first time, and we captured the experience as he began to install his homemade light bulbs in the very houses that had initially inspired him to take on his project. In the moments after Bryan installed his lightbulbs, community members began to process the impact of Bryan’s invention. Families reflected on the difficulties inherent in relying on candlelight to assist kids with homework, the daily pressure to finish working by sunset because no work could get done in the dark, and what unlit houses and streets meant for the physical safety of children and parents alike. “Things are going to be different now. This 12-year-old boy has changed this family’s life,” said Doña Sofía, a mother and grandmother, as she embraced him.

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This image was captured just moments after Doña Sofía’s house had lighting for the very first time, thanks to Bryan’s efforts.

Seeing his efforts materialize into real-world impact has been extremely gratifying for Bryan, but he knows this is just the beginning. As Bryan sets his eyes on new horizons, he hopes to start inspiring other young people around the world to implement the prototype in homes that lack electricity in their own communities.

Your age doesn’t matter. Your idea does. Bryan

Bryan’s definition of innovation is “finding creative ways to help a community solve their problems.” Follow the hashtag #innovarparami to see how other people are defining—and cultivating—innovation.