How An 11-Year-Old CEO Is Using Tech To Help Save Honeybees

Do you know what these women have in common? Would you be surprised to learn that each of them is an inventor, innovator and technology leader?

If so, you are not alone. Most kids (and adults!) have difficulty naming a single female inventor. But female inventors -- active since the dawn of invention! -- have made their mark on the past, even if their history as inventors is not found in our textbooks. And same is true today, as women inventors bring innovative new technologies to bear on the biggest challenges facing our world.

In my work, I’m constantly inspired by the young women I meet who have the spirit to innovate and invent. They are creative, driven and smart, and they are using technology to do amazing things.

One of my favorite young people is 11-year-old Mikaila Ulmer from Austin, Texas. Mikaila is the founder and CEO of Me & the Bees Lemonade, a venture launched when she was just 4 years old, after two things happened: she had two unpleasant bee stings and her great grandmother sent her a cookbook from the 1940s with a recipe for lemonade. After those stings, Mikaila decided to learn more about bees. She discovered how important they were to our food supply and that they were at risk of becoming endangered. Mikaila adapted and sweetened the lemonade recipe with local Texas honey, then pitched the recipe and a business plan to win an investment from the ABC series “Shark Tank.” Just recently, she won a distribution deal with Whole Foods to expand nationwide after a successful trial in pilot stores.

But Mikaila is even more than a seventh grade business pro. She is also a successful social entrepreneur devoted to protecting honeybees. Me & the Bees Lemonade invests a portion of its profits to Heifer International, the Sustainable Food Center in Austin and the Texas Beekeepers Association -- all organizations that work to save bees from extinction. In her free time from school and business, Mikaila also educates young people around the world about the plight of the honeybees and steps they can take to protect them.

Mikaila’s story is one that can inspire other girls to innovate and invent. She understands that technology is the key to both growing her business, and to saving more bees. So far, she has used existing software and existing programs to grow Me & the Bees Lemonade. And although she is just 11, she is keen to create her own tools. For instance, she’s learning how to code so she can build a mobile app as an educational resource for bee protection. And, as a hobby, she’s building a Kano computer with the DIY kit launched by Kickstarter.

Mikaila is showing us the real transformative power of technology by embracing it to spark her own creativity and innovation.

I can easily imagine that in the future Mikaila (or perhaps another girl she’s inspired) will invent a tracker that locates at-risk bee populations, or an artificial pollinator that keeps crops stable while bees repopulate. She could help perfect the design for RoboBees, the tiny aerial bots that will one day carry pollen, currently in the works at Harvard University. At the rate she’s going, nothing about this talented young girl would surprise me.

Young people are already creative and brave. Add the power of technology to that equation, and they are empowered to do great things. Young people like Mikaila are fearless early adopters, unrestrained by worries about what they can’t do. They are building the future. They are making what’s next. And they are the names we’ll see in the textbooks of the future.

To kickstart your own world-changing ideas, check out the Youthspark Hub for free resources and information -- even basic coding tutorials.

Microsoft has partnered with WE Day in an upcoming broadcast special that celebrates youth like Mikaila who are making a difference. Special airing of WE Day on August 28, 2016 at 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT on ABC. WE Day is a commercial-free, national broadcast celebrating the transformative power of individuals acting together. Learn more at www.we.org.