Amazing Kids: Jonny Cohen and Green Shields

Jonny Cohen was taking everything in the house apart by the time he was 4. He built cars, helicopters, robots, and James Bond-like inventions, such as a miniature camera sewn into a beanie baby to spy on his older sister and a remote-controlled nerf gun.

So it’s no surprise that in 2007, at age 11, Jonny invented “Green Shields”—plexiglass panels that make school buses more aerodynamic, improving mileage and reducing CO2 pollution.

In 2008, Jonny received a $1,000 grant to attend the 2009 Youth Venture Summit at MIT and develop this idea. This year, after an impressive community campaign, he received a $25,000 grant from Pepsi to create and test a full-scale version on school buses.

Though he clearly has outsized intelligence (he passed high school honors physics in fifth grade), accomplishments and charm, Jonny says his real secret is his parents, Jakee and Brad.

“They have been supportive of every idea I’ve had,” he says. “I try not to look at the way things are; I look at them the way they could be. My parents taught me to not only dream about ideas, but take initiative to bring them to life.”

Jakee and Brad’s encouragement meant shuttling Jonny to and from Northwestern for classes every Saturday and throughout summers, lots of trips to Radio Shack, support for his athletic career as a golfer and hockey defenseman. They organized the community campaign that resulted in their son finishing fifth out of the 721 contestants to win the $25,000 grant. And Jonny’s older sister, Azza, formed a team to support and promote her brother’s invention.

Jakee works hard to find appropriate opportunities for her son, who she says inspires her. “It’s a joy being his mother. I never know what’s coming next, but I do know that I will be laughing.”

And Jonny’s chocolate-colored eyes really light up when he’s asked about his future plans. “I need to create and test the shield within 12 months. And I’m inventing other things, too,” he says.

To read more inspiring stories about amazing kids, or to nominate an amazing kid you know for the “Amazing Kids! of the Month” award, visit the Amazing Kids! website, Amazing Kids! is a children’s educational non-profit organization dedicated to helping inspire excellence in children while helping them to realize their own amazing potential.”