Fast Company's Adele Peters takes a look at a new type of renewable energy gadget that costs $5 to produce and was designed by thirteen-year-old Maanasa Mendu.
The ninth-grade student, who recently won the grand prize in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, was inspired to design the prototype after noticing that the movement of swaying tree branches looks like piezoelectric materials, or tiny devices that generate power through vibration.
Her design uses small solar "leaves" to collect energy from the sun. As the wind blows or rain falls on the leaves, they also capture energy through vibration. In an earlier version of the design, she focused on wind energy, trying to solve the problem of how to capture the wind in urban areas where giant wind turbines don't make sense. But as she developed the idea, she realized that she could do more...By harnessing multiple sources of power, the device can work more steadily.