Superhero kids of STEM: Meet Lily Born

By: Kendall Lee
A 14-year-old who invents products for the physically challenged turns to family for inspiration.

In this multi-part series, we’ve asked young inventors under the age of 21 to tell their stories of what inspired them to start creating, how they found success and what they hope for the future.

Who: Lily Born,14, from Skokie, Illinois.

My innovation: I am the creator of the Kangaroo Cup, which helps people to drink without spilling.

My origin story: Growing up I knew my grandfather had Parkinson’s, since I helped my grandmother with his pills. He also had a problem with spilling his glass as a result of the way the disease caused his hands to tremble. After a dinner when he spilled his water glass, I wondered if a cup with legs would be less likely to tip over.

I made my first sketch of the concept when I was seven. The idea became the Kangaroo Cup, which I eventually turned into a product.

Part of the reason I created ideas from a young age is that I come from a very entrepreneurial family. My mom has a patent. My dad is an engineer who invented things like the Skip Doctor — a device to clean your CDs.

Bringing my idea to life:  After I made that first sketch, I brought it to my dad and we made the first prototype out of a plastic juice cup and moldable plastic. My grandpa actually used that for a long time.

Not long after, my dad asked me if I wanted to take it to production and I didn’t know what that meant. But I said, “Sure, let’s give it a shot.”

We went to China to talk to manufacturers and two weeks after we came back we received a ceramic version of the Kangaroo Cup that looked like it could be sold in Target. I couldn’t even believe this came from that first drawing.

Eventually I launched my site, Imagiroo, to sell my cups and tell my story. Teenagers and kids should know they can have the experience I did.

What I’m doing now: As a result of my invention, I’ve been able to do a lot of cool things. I’ve gone to the White House science fair and been recognized by CNN Heroes as a Young Wonder. But what I enjoy the most is going around to schools to speak to students about inventing. Sparking other people to be creative is so exciting. If I can do it, other people can do it, too. That may be a cheesy line, but it definitely applies.

Lily Born at the White House Science Fair.

The truth is, I don’t think of myself as an academically smart person. I’m more of a real-life person. Everyone’s smart in different ways. I like to remind myself that you won’t get graded on everything once you’re out of college. That helps keep me from freaking out when I think about school.

In addition to the Kangaroo Cup, I’m also working on an Internet-connected pillbox and other ideas I hope to bring to market one day.

We need more: Young inventors.

Why we need more: Adults often don’t give teenagers and kids a chance to show what they can really do with their ideas. I want teenagers and kids to know they can have the experience I did. I even made a guide to inventing to give people of all ages an idea of how to go through the invention process.

Read more essays by young inventors

Learn more about how the Verizon Foundation supports them through Verizon Innovative Learning

About the author(s): 

Kendall Lee is a senior manager in the Verizon Foundation.