by Ian Fortey
They say kids grow up too fast these days, but there's some historical precedent for kids leaving home at 13 to become coal miners or dragon slayers back in the Dark Ages. Really, it seems to depend on the kid in question, like the 12 year old stunt driver who taught the Modern Rogue team how to drive like they live: like they stole something. So maybe you spent your childhood playing Playstation and eating Pixie Stix, but there are some kids out there setting the bar so high that most adults can't clear their badassery, even with the help of a trampoline.
The Genius Brothers Who Are Under 15
Carson and Canann Huey-You could lift up Good Will Hunting with the power of their minds and genius-suplex him through a table made of physics and them apples. That's how smart these kids are.
And they do it without the Boston accent.
At 14, Carson became the youngest graduate in Texas Christian University's history, where he majored in physics with a minor in Chinese and math. He's moving ahead with his Master's in physics right now, because why not just learn everything there is to learn before you're 20? His little brother Canaan is following in his footsteps. He just graduated high school at age 11 and will attend the same college to pursue his interest in astrophysics and engineering. We're pretty sure most kids are pursuing an interest in boogers and cartoons at that age. Some of us still are, well into our 30s.
The brothers were home-schooled by their mother for the first few years of their lives, but she knew she'd need help when Carson was asking her to teach him calculus ... at age 3. The boys are not just geniuses, but also polite, normal kids who like to play with lightsabers and just hang out together when they're not off blowing the minds of professors or inventing dogs that can talk ... which, admittedly, neither of them has actually done, but you just know they're going to.
"We got this one to talk, but it just keeps prophesying humanity's doom."
The brothers have plans to pursue their interests to their logical conclusions: Carson wants his PhD and Canaan plans to become an astronaut. Meanwhile, the rest of the kids their age are just trying to figure out the plot twists on Riverdale.
The Teen Who's Trying To End Global Warming
Aside from Superman and maybe Elon Musk, assuming he's not actually a supervillain, lots of people want to make a difference in the world but don't know how. Ethan Novek, however, is trying to do what he can to stop us from broiling ourselves to death with greenhouse gases. That's nice of him. And he got his start when he was 15 years old.
Working in his high school lab, Novek was trying to figure out a way to make some fertilizer, which is a thing teens do, right? They text, they obsess over zits, they try to think of cost-effective ways to increase crop yields. He'd always been a bit of an inventor, coming up with new ways to harvest energy and winning science fairs. But then one day he accidentally stumbled upon something very significant: If you pump some kind of exhaust gases into a mixture of ammonia and water, add a solvent to break the bond between the ammonia and the CO2, you get pure CO2 that can be pumped out, and the rest is recycled. Duh.
We call the t-shirt design!
That might not mean anything to you, but it should. This process could cheaply -- about 85% cheaper than current methods -- filter industrial exhaust at factories all over the world, massively reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Novek caught the attention of a professor at Yale, who brought Novek into his lab and, with the help of other researchers, presented Novek's findings in a scientific journal. At the same time, he was applying to and eventually getting accepted for something called the Carbon X Prize. Novek was set to build an actual plant to test his idea -- we're talking a full team of contractors and a project manager to make it a reality. At age 16, he raised the $250,000 he needed and got to work.
Novek ended up dropping out of the competition several months after starting work on his plant, though. The Carbon X people wanted competitors to turn their CO2 into a valuable product, while Novek is simply concerned with reducing it. So instead, he managed to find another investor to help him bring his idea to life his way, because if you start compromising on your CO2 ideas when you're 16, you'll be doing it forever.
OK, you're gonna have to address the lab coat. Because we need one.
The 6 Year Old Professional Gamer
Remember when your parents used to tell you to stop playing video games, go outside and maybe do something with your life? Well you should have drop kicked them right in neck and gone back to playing Battletoads, because not only is there a future in video games, there are people like Victor "Lil Poison" De Leon III who were doing it professionally before they even started school. Take that, mom!
De Leon holds the distinction of being the youngest professional gamer in the world. He started his career in 2005 at age 6 when he was recruited by Major League Games to play HALO. Later that same year, he placed second in a tournament of 550 players, only losing out to his own uncle. Word is he earned so much money from gaming in that one year, he paid for his entire college tuition.
And those awesome socks.
De Leon ended up getting listed in the Guinness Book of World records for three years in a row and pretty much retired from the sport by the time most kids actually get started into it. He had mastered not only HALO and its sequels but also Call of Duty and UFC Undisputed, because it's good to have a diverse portfolio, even if you can't spell "portfolio" yet.
Lil Poison was featured on dozens of talk shows over the years and even had a documentary made about him before he began to withdraw from the public eye and seemingly retire from the game. That, or he became an actual Master Chief and left our petty solar system behind.
The 14 Year Old Who Became An App Making Millionaire
If there's one thing technology has taught us in the last decade, it's that you can become rich off of an app that has almost no purpose at all, as long as it's easy to use and kind of fun. Many people have been inspired to learn some programming in the hopes that their app, whether it be one that helps you identify stool samples in the wild or is just a simple puzzle game, could be their ticket to the good life. And that's what happened to 14-year-old Robert Nay.
"If you want my autograph, you're gonna have to eat the phone."
Nay created an app called Bubble Ball, which was downloaded 2 million times in two weeks, which works out to like a million times a day if we know our math (and we don't). He became a millionaire in almost no time. Was he some kind of coding prodigy? A techno whiz kid genius? Not really. His friends told him it'd be cool if he made an app, so he went to the library to research how to write code, something he'd never done before, and then just did it. Just imagine being able to think "this would be fun" of some random thing you have no experience doing, and then becoming a millionaire for it a month later. That's the power of youthful thinking right there. That, or Robert Nay is the actual, literal devil.
Bubble Ball proved to be so popular, it put a boot square in the throat of Angry Birds, knocking it out of the number one download spot in the app store. If you recall, Angry Birds was so popular it tricked people into thinking you could make a movie out of it, so this was a big deal.
Hey, deny it all you want. It happened.
Robert went on to found Nay Games and produce more Bubble Ball content, as well as another app for helping kids learn to spell. Then presumably he retired to a tree house in the Bahamas. But not before making the Forbes "30 Under 30" list.
The Boy Who Built His Own Prosthetic ... Out Of Lego
The world of prosthetics is pretty impressive these days, thanks to the 3D printing revolution. Tons of people have come up with designs and made them open source for others to use and improve upon, all toward the goal of helping those with missing limbs improve their quality of life in a way that's literally hundreds of times more affordable than prosthetics previously had been. But what if you don't have access to a 3D printer? You could be like David Aguilar and use the next best thing: Lego.
Aguilar was born in Andorra; his right arm never fully developed, leaving him with a shortened appendage that ended just around the elbow joint. Using Lego, he was able to construct a device that attached to his arm and was outfitted with a functional hand. It looks a bit like the infamous limb from Terminator 2, only much more colorful and with 50% fewer time paradoxes. And 100% more awesome.
David has had his video and image stolen loads of times, so instead of embedding it here, we're just going to link directly to his original.
The device, which fits up over his existing arm nearly to the shoulder, can be tightened over his arm and takes advantage of the limited movement he has naturally. Once he has it situated, he can extend it which causes the hand clamp to open, and then draw it back, causing the clamp to close. The result is the ability to grab and lift objects with a red and yellow Iron Man-like Lego arm that is easily 1000 times cooler than the rudimentary spaceships most of us made with our own Lego.
Of course there are two ways to look at these awesome kids: 1) Be disappointed in yourself for not having accomplished more in your life, or 2) be inspired to play catch-up, honoring them as the master rogues that they are. We prefer the latter.
Like this article? Check out "Where's All The Cool SciFi Stuff We Were Promised As Kids? Well, Actually ..." and "5 People Who Took Con Artistry To Crazy New Heights".