One teen found a genius way to make airplane air up to 55 times cleaner.

3 billion people fly on a plane each year. That's a lot of germs.

Been sneezed on recently? Of course you have.

Whether you realize it or not, those suckers can travel. All of those coughs, sneezes, and sniffles that are constantly happening around you (or that you're doing yourself!) don't care much for boundaries. Your immune system is always fair game.



Even birds sneeze. And ruin perfectly good popcorn. GIF via "Angry Birds Movie" trailer.

When Raymond Wang was 15 years old, he got to thinking about how those kinds of germs travel.

The teen from Vancouver didn't have much of a choice; in late 2014, the news was covered in germs.

"I remember sitting on the couch and listening to the news and people constantly talking about two things: airplanes and the Ebola outbreak," Raymond recalled over the phone.

We can all relate to that. The 24-hour news cycle was obsessed with Ebola: the graphic scenes, the lives lost, the explanations of just how contagious it was, and basically anything else that scared the living bejeezus out of people.

The fear of air travel is what really struck a chord with Raymond.

"After hearing Ebola news time and time again, I thought maybe I should try to do something to look into the problem. Searching online, it turns out you come across various statistics of people getting sick on airplanes."

Disease transmission on planes can have a big effect. Like with H1N1...

All images via TED/YouTube, unless noted.

...and SARS.

Oftentimes, people might not even know they are sick when they are contaminating others!

That's a serious problem – especially when it comes to keeping disease and sickness contained.

Not being your average teenager, Raymond got to work on how to find a solution to reduce the spread of germs on planes.

And he succeeded.

"I didn't have money to go out and buy a plane, so I decided to build a computer instead," he said in his TED Youth talk. (I told you he's not your average teenager.)

He created simulations of how air currently flows and mixes around in an airplane. This is what he discovered happens when someone sneezes:


In. Your. Face.

Yes, you can take a minute to reflect on how gross and in-your-face that is. And then you can see how much better a teenager can make it.

He invented a small, fin-shaped device that can reduce pathogen inhalation by up to 55 times and improve fresh air delivery by 190%.

It could change the way we breathe on planes forever by changing airflow for the entire cabin.

It's what he calls a "patent-pending global inlet director," and it's a super-simple concept when you see how it works.

The device can be installed into existing spots in the overhead area of an airplane cabin, so it's easy. And it's cheap too. It works by creating personalized breathing zones from above by pushing air down instead of out, like the current system does.

So whereas a sneeze before would have spread out from head level, a sneeze with the director in place would be pushed down and filtered out before it could reach seat neighbors.

"A lot of the focus on planes is geared toward optimizing the exterior of airplanes," he says. "I wanted to optimize the cabin experience for passengers and flight crew. For people who are working on flights every day, this is a health and safety issue for them."

Raymond hopes to get the device on the market soon and has been busy pitching it at science and aviation conferences. He's seen a lot of positive feedback on it. And honestly, what's not to like?

Photo via Raymond Wang, used with permission.

As we've seen, disease outbreaks can come on very quickly and unexpectedly. Every little bit helps in the fight against them, and it's inspiring to see simple solutions that can make a big impact on our health and safety.

It just happens to be even cooler when the solutions come from people who haven't even graduated high school yet. Nice work, Raymond!

You can see more on his efforts in this great TED Talk:

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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