This Award Winning 8-Year-Old Girl Built Solar Water Heater Using Recycled Objects
Xóchitl Guadalupe Cruz López, an 8-year-old girl from Altos de Chiapas, Mexico, made history by being the first child to receive the prestigious “ICN Recognition for Women,” an award usually reserved for adults. She was awarded by Nuclear Sciences Institute (ICN) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) for her solar water heater that she built out of recycled materials.
According to her parents, Xochitl has been passionate about science from an early age, coming up with outstanding inventions since the age of four. She has been participating in UNAM’s Adopt a Talent Program (PAUTA) for the past four years, winning prizes at different science fairs. Last year, she placed first during the 2017 Expo Science for her project, Baño Calientito (Warm Bath).
For this year’s fair, Xochitl’s decided to go for a solar water heater as her entry. She built it using discarded objects from a former construction site. She used two glass doors to serve as her panels, logs, bottles, and hoses connecting buckets and the water tank. With a bit of help from her father, she was able to install the solar heater on their home’s rooftop.
Xochitl is currently a third-grader attending Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez Elementary School. Despite her young age, she is aware of the environmental concerns surrounding her rural community. Her goal is to help slow climate change. She explained that the idea of making a solar water heater came to her because she wanted to reduce the need for firewood.
“These are low-income people who don’t have the possibility to buy these heaters, so what they do is cut the trees to get firewood, which affects the world through climate change. So what I did is make this project, this heater, from recycled objects that don’t hurt the environment,” the budding scientist shares during an interview.
Xochitl is now thinking of building larger heaters with solar panels. That is why she is seeking financial support from universities and researchers. Her father, Lucio Guadalupe, is proud of her daughter’s endeavors, adding that families should “support the little ones, who are the future.” Her mother, Alma Lopez Gomez, can’t contain her joy saying, “It’s a great honor to know all that she has done” during an interview.
What Xochitl has accomplished so far serves as inspiration that women and girls can succeed in a male-dominated field. Statistics from Conacyt, Mexico’s national agency for science and technology, shows that only 36% are women in the country’s scientific register. The number lags behind the proportion of female scientists in Latin America where 45% of scientific researchers are women.
Jesús Iradier Santiago, State Coordinator of UNAM's Adopt a Talent Program (PAUTA), highlights that there are many others like Xochitl who have a great capacity for science. However, talent is lost because the children are not given adequate attention by authorities and even their families.
"I am very happy for the awards. I never imagined getting here. It's something I cannot describe," said the little girl, who thanked her parents and her brother for the unconditional support they have provided.