This 12-Year-Old Invented A Robot That Could Help End Malaria

David Cohen understands that mosquitoes aren't just pesky annoyances -- they're global killers, too.

That's why the 12-year-old from Dallas invented a robot that drowns the pests using a pump-jet system that traps them underwater using mesh. He submitted his work to the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge earlier this year and is one of the competition's ten finalists.

The challenge, which is open for students who are in grades 5 through 8 at the time of submission, awards its winner $25,000, the title of "America's Top Young Scientist," and an all-expenses paid vacation. A victor will be decided after finalists present their work on Oct. 13 and 14 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

While Cohen pointed out to The Huffington Post that malaria, a mosquito-borne illness, kills roughly 627,000 people each year -- predominantly in developing regions of sub-Saharan Africa -- Cohen said he got the idea for the project after his own family was affected by the dangerous pests.

"My sister actually got a pretty bad staph infection from itching a mosquito bite," he told HuffPost in an email, noting that mosquitoes love Texas' hot and humid climate. "She was in a lot of pain and could barely walk. It took her a couple weeks to heal with heavy antibiotics."

Like the other finalists, Cohen was matched with a mentor to help make his work become a reality. The high school freshman was paired with Delony Langer-Anderson, a 3M advanced new product development specialist in the Consumer Health Care Division.

young scientist challenge
Cohen and his mentor throughout the competition, Delony Langer-Anderson. Photo courtesy 3M Young Scientist Challenge

Langer-Anderson, who helped connect Cohen with experts in mosquito-borne illnesses throughout their mentorship, said the Dallas preteen's unique perspective makes him a standout scientist.

"David looked at the problem of mosquito-borne illnesses in a different way," Langer-Anderson told HuffPost in an email. "He asked, 'What if the mosquito was never born?' As he's worked through prototypes and ideas, he's never lost sight of the idea that if he can stop the mosquito from emerging from the larvae stage, he can prevent them from spreading diseases."

Langer-Anderson said that while it remains to be seen if Cohen's invention will decrease the number of cases of diseases like malaria or West Nile virus, the fact that young people are already solving real world problems is a great sign.

"I think that people like David have the potential to impact the futures of people living in our country and in developing regions of the world," she said.

Beer Traps
Turns out that mosquitoes are attracted to those who drink beer. So, we thought that placing cups filled with cheap-o lager around our patio would make great bait for the pests. A glance at the buggy victims proved this to be true. There's a catch though. Mosquitoes will still seek you out if you're drinking the stuff. Bottom line: This somewhat works, but if you're also imbibing, expect to be bitten. Photo from Flickr user Dinner Series.
Wear White
The thinking here is that colors somehow make you more attractive to mosquitoes. But this is just a bunch of wishful thinking -- the bugs will still bite, no matter how much white you wear. Bottom line: Does not work. Photo from Flickr user ir0cko.
Eat Garlic
Garlic is used in many mosquito repellants used in landscaping. So, why wouldn't it work for us? After eating a garlicky meal, we waited. The mosquitoes didn't bother us. But really, is this practical? Bottom line: Works, if you'd like to down garlic cloves on a daily basis. Photo from Flickr user lowjumpingfrog.
This involves exactly what you think it does: Vacuuming up any mosquito you see in the air. It's more like a reflex test than a viable means of pest control. The bottom line: Not surprisingly, does not work. Photo from Flickr user williac.
When diluted with water and spritzed on the skin, this promised to rid of us mosquitoes for a full night. Sadly, it just made us smell minty fresh. We were still bitten at the end of the night. Bottom line: Does not work. Photo from Flickr user cubemate
Anti-Mosquito App
This sonic repellant promises to rid your life of mosquitoes with a touch of a button. Easy, right? So we were disappointed when all this did was drain our iPhone's battery. Bottom line: Does not work. Photo from Flickr user bfishadow.
Like garlic, mosquitoes dislike chives. We simply placed a few snippets in a centerpiece and hoped for results. Though we did experience less bites, we were still bitten. Bottom line: Might work, but probably should be applied to the skin in order to see results. Photo from Flickr user jeremy_w_osborne.
Fabric Softener Sheets
Rubbed onto the skin, this method did leave us mosquito bite-free for the evening. But, it did irritate the skin of one of our testers. So, use caution. Bottom line: This works. Photo from Amazon
Dish Soap
A few squirts of dish soap, left in a saucer, did a nice job of keeping mosquitos occupied...and away from us. The results were comparable to citronella candle. Bottom line: This works. Photo from Getty Images.
Particularly, Mountain Dew, which was suggested by a reader, with a dash of dish soap. While the traps did attract mosquitoes, this might have also been because of the dish soap. Bottom line: This works, but probably not because of the soda. Photo from Flickr user (aka Brent)
Bubble Machine
Silly, but it did prove effective. Again, soap might be the factor here. Bottom line: It works. Photo from Flickr user Ali Smiles :).