What do you do when you or someone you know has a problem with no solution?
It’s tempting to give up and throw in the towel. It’s tempting to sit there and complain about how things are never going to change, how change is impossible.
Sure, some lethargic loafers like to moan and whine about the way things are and ruin things for the rest of us. But most people do what humans have been doing since the dawn of time: inventing solutions to problems using their brainpower, their imagination and their ingenuity.
Every life-changing invention — from the ancient advancements of agriculture and the wheel to the things we take for granted today, such as airplanes, cellphones and the Internet — came into being because someone, somewhere, had a major problem they needed to solve.
Inventions don’t have to be beeping gadgets or mechanical marvels. Democracy is a pretty cool invention, as is jazz music.
Inventors are often seen as cackling, mad-scientist types, locked away in garrets tinkering with strange gadgets. In reality, though, inventors are everywhere and working in every field. A lot of them are teens, just like you.
In the 1970s, Clive Campbell was 17 and a disc jockey. He noticed that people at disco parties got bored and restless while records were changed, so he invented the first "break beats" to entertain them, paving the way for the style of thousands of rappers and hip-hop artists today.
Blind teenager Louis Braille wanted fellow blind students to have the same kind of resources available to them as sighted students. At 15, he had created the raised alphabet that now bears his name.
Kenyan teen Richard Turere, 13, had a major problem with lions that would raid his family’s livestock at night. Noticing that the big cats stayed away as long as someone was walking around the farmyard with a flashlight, Turere hooked up a system of old LEDs to the family’s solar panel and created a system that would flash automatically at night.
It kept the lions away and solved the family’s lion problem without slaughtering the majestic creatures, as had often been done in the past. His neighbors followed suit and installed his LED security system. They stopped having problems with the lions as well.
One of the coolest recent teen inventions I’ve heard of belongs to 15-year-old Tanay Tandon. Last year, the teen had a lot to do: homework, being on the tennis team and competing in debates with his high school forensics team. He needed to save some time.
Tandon came up with an app called Clipped that "extracts the most important information from Web pages and allows users to instantly generate a bullet-pointed summary, whether on mobile or desktop," according to the "Think Mobile" blog.
The app helps teens like those on his debate team sort through mountains of data and prepare faster for debates (or other scholastic events).
The magazine Fast Company says Clipped is now being touted as the next big app, with Tandon poised on the verge of being a famous CEO entrepreneur before he can drive.
You don’t need to be Einstein to invent something that will change the world. You are uniquely qualified to solve the problems that exist in your world.
Osborne is a columnist for Catholic News Service.