Jonny Cohen

On how to invent a device and implement a project that saves 28% of gas for buses.

Jonny CohenTitle: Inventor

Project: GreenShields

Age: 16

Hometown: Highland Park, Illinois


I thought of an idea called GreenShields to place a polycarbonate shield on the front of school buses to make them more aerodynamic and to save gas and help the environment. In summer of 2010, the shields were tested and found to save 28% of gas.

Please see the website to learn about the work:

Special training or skills needed:

You just need to love science and the earth!  

I took Saturday, summer, and online science classes at Northwestern University's Center for Talent Development.

How to find funding:

It was hard to get funding to test the shields, but then I applied for grants and entered an online voting contest to get funding. Also, sometimes it is hard to get appointments with adults when you are a kid. But don't give up. Be polite and keep trying.

For more on how to overcome

age discrimination, check out

Charles Orgbon's ExperTeens page.

Helpful people and orgs:  

My high school: The physics teacher, Mr. Kunal Pujara, and the science department chair, Mrs. Shannon Bain, and principal, Mr. Swanson, were helpful. Mr. John Conolley, my engineering teacher, is a wonderful resource. Mr. Pujara worked with me before I was even a high school student! My older sister Azza suggested that I go meet with him and ask him about my idea.  

So the lesson here is to ask

for help and don't be afraid.

Team members: All of them (especially Alex Berkowitz) have contributed countless hours.

Tip: Find hard working and

passionate kids to help you. 

Local media and government: The mayor of my town, Illinois EPA, Governor's office and local newspapers were really supportive.

Northwestern University: Incredible, they let me work with professors and interns there. Project advisor, Stacy Benjamin of the Segal Design School at Northwestern University, engineering interns Tim Healy and Matt Filak are tremendously smart and fun to work with. 

Local business: Cook-Illinois Bus Company is incredible, the owner, Mr. John Benish donated a bus so I can work on it and test. I am so grateful.

Family: My older sister Azza has been my constant supporter and best friend. Even though she is on a gap year in India now, I know she is checking out the school buses to see if we can put GreenShields on them! My younger sister Daniella baked hundreds of green muffins to help me get support during the Pepsi Refresh voting campaign and she is always listens to me practice before I give a presentation.   

How to reach out to other orgs:

I asked by sending emails and making phone calls. I sent out many emails to Northwestern and then Ms. Stacy Benjamin from Northwestern answered me--she met with me. Even though I was nervous, I told her about my idea. She said she would help. If you don't try, then nothing will happen. It is ok to get rejected, but you should try.

Tip: If you don't try, then

nothing will happen.

Helpful stuff: 

Youth Venture is great organization that encourages, has funded, and inspires me.

MIT and CALTech have free science videos.

Pepsi and GOOD magazine helped me with funding and opportunities.

I also need technology--use of computers, wind tunnels, Facebook.

Theatre teachers: Mr. Shallebarger in the theatre department of my high school helped me when I was nervous about making speeches.

Word to the wise:

Get business cards. Always cc your mom or dad on the emails you send, then you have another record of your correspondence. Always send thank-you emails after someone talks to you or helps you.  

Tip: Create an email account specifically

for your project. Your emails will have a

more professional tone.

Read on!

I guest blogged for The White House's "For the Win".

How to jump on the movement:

GreenShieldsPlease go to my website:  

Read my story of how I started. You can call me or email me on the contact page.

Also see the media tab on my website and you can learn more about GreenShields.  

I want kids to know that they can use science to help the environment and be a social changemaker. I always like to say, try to see things the way they could be, not the way they are. Be the change. Just try and don't be scared. I had a crazy idea and I am learning every day. Good luck!