Eight Innovators to Watch in 2020

From plastic recycling pioneers to landmine foes, these dreamers have big plans for the coming year

(Clockwise from left) Michela Puddu, Elias Sime, Richard Yim and Miranda Wang (Michela Puddu, Brett Moen, Richard Yim, YouTube)
smithsonianmag.com

Our New Year’s resolutions are likely to involve something prosaic like “eating more vegetables” or “not sleeping with my phone next to my pillow.” But we are mere mortals. These following eight innovators have goals like “get rid of landmines” and “invent an electric airplane.” We're going to keep our eyes on them in the coming year: we have a feeling their grand ambitions won’t be as easily abandoned as our healthy eating plans.

Engineering Wunderkind Krithik Ramesh

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(Krithik Ramesh)

By far the youngest innovator on our list is Krithik Ramesh, a Colorado high schooler who took home a $75,000 top prize at 2019’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Ramesh’s winning invention was an augmented reality software program for use in spinal surgery. Surgeons would use a VR headset to predict spinal movements during surgery instead of relying on continuous x-rays, which bring the risks of radiation exposure.  

A true renaissance teen, Ramesh’s inventions aren’t limited to the biomedical. In 2018, he tied for first place in Intel’s mechanical engineering category for an invention involving airplane wings. He used his prize money to install solar panels on schools in rural India.

“To me innovation is a catalyst for creating accessible and quality products to solve the world's most intractable problems,” he says.

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