Meet a 12-year-old Scientist – Peyton Robertson

By Anupum Pant

Today we meet a 12-year-old ‘man’ who has been on an invention spree since he was just 8 years old. If I may use a pop-culture reference, this adorable boy is a Sheldon Copper in the making.

Peyton Robertson from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, presently has 3 patents pending:

  1. A case (box) to maintain a resting golf ball’s temperature – Peyton loves golf. And on one cold day, when he observed that his golf balls weren’t bouncing the way they should have been, he, instead of sleeping on the problem, thought of finding a solution.
  2. Retractable training wheels: This one is a pair of retractable training wheels connected to a lever mechanism on the handle of a bicycle – you press the lever and the training wheels rise up. A perfect solution for kids who want to experience the joy of biking while they are learning to ride. He invented this to help his sister when she was learning to ride a bicycle. Today, bike manufacturers are flocking around him to buy his idea.
  3. A sand-less sand bag: When the super-storm Sandy struck 24 US states in October last year, the entire eastern sea-face from Florida to Maine suffered great losses. It caused a damage of around $65 billion. Peyton saw this and figured that the sand bags that were being used for flood defense contributed to a lot of inefficiency. These bags were 40 pounds each; moving them from one place to another was tough. But they had to be heavy to stop the water. Besides that, the bags when stacked left undesirable gaps in between, which caused a leakage. Peyton felt a need to contribute to make people better equipped for floods in the future.

His solution – A sand-less sand bag – is better than the traditional bag in two ways. Firstly, weighing around 4 pounds, it is significantly lighter than the sand bag. It contains a mixture of, a polymer that expands when it comes in contact with water, and salt which makes it heavy when it wets. Secondly, this bag comes with an interlocking fastener which keeps the bag in place when it expands – Removing any gaps which could create a leak during the floods. Moreover these bags can be dried later to be reused.

The witty sandbag made him the youngest ever person to win the Discovery Young Scientist Challenge. The prize – $25,000 and a trip to Costa Rica!

In an interview with TED blog he said:

Failure is progress and a normal part of the process. Whether it’s science or life, you have to start, fail and just keep pushing. In a football game, time runs out, and a golf match ends after the last hole. But when you are working on something and it doesn’t work, you just extend the game – and give your experiment or your prototype another go.

It was a delight to watch the charming boy speak on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Sadly, that video no longer exists, here’s a replacement with the guy’s own pitch:

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