It was a trip to India, where she saw many people who lacked access to affordable clean water and electricity, that inspired 13 year old Maanasa Mendu to work out a way to make wind and solar energy affordable.
Now the American high school student has won the grand prize in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge and picked up a $25,000 award for her "solar leaves" invention, called HARVEST.
The leaves cost about $6.50 (US$5) to make, and are designed to help developing countries in need of cheap power alternatives.
"I wanted to help mitigate the global energy crisis by creating a device utilising piezoelectricity materials that are both eco-friendly and cost efficient," Mendu said.
Mendu's piezoelectric (which means it generates AC voltage from vibration) wind-energy device secured her a place as a finalist in the Young Scientist Challenge.
She then worked with a mentor, 3M senior product development engineer Margauz Mitera, for three months, and together they developed a more advanced system and, inspired by how plants function, they changed HARVEST to gather vibrational energy.
HARVEST works via solar cells and piezoelectric material - or material generating electrical currents when exposed to vibration - to convert sunlight, wind and rain into renewable energy.
Mendu hopes to develop her HARVEST prototype further, before scaling it up for commercial distribution.
"Each year, the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge reminds us of the inspiring ingenuity that results when we empower our youngest generation to apply science, critical-thinking and creativity to solve real-world problems," said Bill Goodwyn, president and CEO, Discovery Education.
"Discovery Education is honored to stand alongside 3M in congratulating Maanasa and the rest of this year’s finalists on their impressive innovations that foreshadow a bright future for our nation."