This young inventor's brilliant device could remove tons of garbage from our oceans.

When Boyan Slat was 16 years old, he decided to try to save the ocean.

"I've always been making stuff," Slat said. Now he's 21, a young man with full hair, and he says he's been an inventor since he was young. He built tree houses and ziplines in his native Netherlands as a child. And once, when he was 12, he decided to see what would happen if he launched 250 model rockets at the same time.

"I liked problem-solving, but what I didn't really have was a real problem to work on."


He found that problem while scuba diving in Greece.

"I was expecting to see beautiful stuff underwater, but I saw more plastic bags than fish."

After his dive, Slat did more research, and he learned that plastic is a serious problem. A very serious problem. In fact, the ocean is currently full of an estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic.

A volunteer collects rubbish in Manila Bay in the Philippines. Photo from Jay Director/AFP/Getty Images.

This plastic tends to accumulate in large patches such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the North Pacific and kills birds, fish, and all manner of sea life.

"And I thought, well, why don't we just clean this up?" said Slat.

A lot of people were doubtful the garbage problem could ever be solved, but Slat started to look for solutions anyway.

"Everyone on the internet was saying it was impossible to clean up, and I thought, well, that’s quite a big statement," Slat said.

After a span of time, 16-year-old Slat hit on an idea: Instead of chasing individual patches of trash across the ocean, he figured he could flip the scenario and use the ocean's currents to move the trash to a stationary device instead.

Slat founded his foundation, The Ocean Cleanup, in 2013.

The Ocean Cleanup's main work is developing the system Slat thought up when he was 16. It's a system designed to remove plastic debris from the ocean by placing floating barriers in strategic points along ocean currents, funneling the trash toward central removers.

Artist's impression of the system. Image from Erwin Zwart/The Ocean Cleanup, used with permission.

In order to focus wholly on The Ocean Cleanup, Slat also dropped out of college, where he had been studying aerospace engineering. As for how his family took the news, he said, "I think at first they were a bit anxious about me quitting college, but I am quite glad they gave me that."

The same year, Slat presented his ocean cleanup idea in a TEDx event, where it caught the internet's attention and went viral.

"I wasn't really prepared [for the viral moment]," said Slat. "Suddenly I received about 1,500 emails per day in my personal mailbox."

That first week after the TEDx video went viral, Slat says there were so many emails that he had to invite friends to come over and help him answer the messages from his bedroom. "I was there with like five friends, with our laptops, just plowing our way through all those emails," he remembers.

From there, Slat was able to pull together a team of experts and engineers and find funding for the project.

Today, The Ocean Cleanup is on track to put Slat's device in the ocean soon.

In fact, on June 22, 2016, The Ocean Cleanup launched a prototype device in the North Sea.

Artist's impression of the prototype. Image from Erwin Zwart/The Ocean Cleanup, used with permission.

The prototype is a small-scale test of the floating-barrier system. Slat said it'll prove out whether the system can survive the tough conditions found on the open ocean (the North Sea is one of the toughest patches of water in the world). The thinking is that if the barrier can survive stresses there, the system can survive anywhere.

"To finally have something physical that you can actually see on the ocean, that you're putting through testing, and see that it works I think that's ... it's really sort of indescribable," Slat said.

"But of course it's just the beginning," added Slat. "It's just one of many tests. But it is an important milestone, that's for sure."

There's been some skepticism about whether the project will work in the end, but Slat seems both pragmatic and determined.

One of the boats that launched the prototype. Photo from The Ocean Cleanup, used with permission.

Some have questioned whether the project will be able to collect enough trash to be feasible or wonder whether sea life will be safe, as The Ocean Cleanup says it will, but Slat seems to take the skepticism in stride.

"I really think the only way to know whether it will work is the things we are doing right now — by testing, testing, testing again," Slat said. He says a little skepticism is always expected around new technology, plus it can often end up helping researchers and engineers focus on the right questions to answer.

"I think working with the right people, having the right pragmatic attitude and iterative design philosophy ... if there is a way that we can do it, we will find it."

If the North Sea prototype does well, The Ocean Cleanup will move forward on their plans to deploy a full-size system.

If everything goes according to plan, they'll be able to launch a pilot system late next year, and they may be able to start cleaning up the North Pacific by 2020.

"I'm quite optimistic about the future," Slat said. "We've shown that for many problems we've faced over the last few centuries, we've been able to make dramatic advancements in them. Think about violence, education, poverty, etc."

Of course, we have a lot of work to do to solve current environmental problems. But technology has proven itself to be incredibly powerful, and by focusing on using it for good, we can conquer this problem too.

"As long as we develop technologies that actually help solve problems, I think eventually we will get to a pretty bright future," he said.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."