Seventeen-year-old Veronica Reynoso is a scientist mostly known for creating light sources like Bioluminescent lamp, Piezoelectric Flashlight, and Ergonomic Bandaid all of which are powered by the heat of the hand. But among those close to her, she is known for her misfit robots and sometimes fire-causing failed prototypes. She does not give up, however; she has submitted projects to benefit the community which all started from junkyard parts. With her keen, resourcefu mind, she takes inspiration from science fiction novels and sci-fi television like CW's, The 100.

Still a high school junior, Veronica is gaining attention from the scientific arena. Last year, she was invited to attend a seminar in Massachusetts for high school honors students interested in becoming physicians or medical scientists. She is passionate about making a difference in the world and being the source to spark change. We asked her to share with Luca readers how she finds scientific inspirations every day, everywhere...

Be the Source

words | Veronica Reynoso

I walk to the junkyard to find scrap aluminum and every morning when that happens, I remap what my blueprint looks like in my head. Although I probably have it scribbled on the back of a cereal box somewhere, rewiring is key.

I first started inventing/ making innovative projects when I was around 9. To this day I look back and think “Oh what was I thinking?” or believe that my prototypes weren’t any good. In reality, they were extremely important in my foundation of creativity and science.

 Kennedy High junior, Veronica Reynoso, 16, is seated at her science wall in her bedroom. Reynoso is passionate about science and recently created a lamp powered by bioluminescent bacteria. Her next project is to build a prototype for a hollow flashlight that works solely on the heat of the human hand. Reynoso is photographed at her home La Palma on Thursday, December  29, 2016. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

As a young child, I so desperately wanted a “Beginning to Electronics Kit 1000” but it was $25.99 and my mother said no. What I ended up doing was using my parents’ old radios, telephones, and sewing machine and taking them apart to observe and learn. I was able to do the take-apart-put-back-together a couple times before I forgot to include one screw at the very bottom and was told to stop.

Very early on, when my dad did not control the TV, I was able to watch Jeopardy and learned that knowledge is power. However, I always wondered what those contestants did with their lives using such large amount of information. Throughout my childhood, television continued to be a source of inspiration and one day I remember watching the t.v. show Big Bang Theory for the first time. It was the episode where Sheldon Cooper goes insane and resorts to all sorts of experiments like making fish glow in the dark. I too, went 'bonkers' and decided to try it on my own.

The park near my house contains a small creek where tiny little organisms called Vibrio Fischeri. Nobody could ever see them since they only emitted a small amount of light, but I decided to use my persistent childish mind and see what I could do. I learned all about the bioluminescent bacteria, more specifically, why and how they glowed. After buying a set online from a laboratory in Carolina Biological, they were much more easier to handle. After months, I took a plant in my house that nobody ever cared about, inoculated the bacteria, and prepared it to glow.

Veronica Reynoso

Each time when I subcultured the bacteria and set it in a dark room, I saw that if I expose it to certain types of pathogenic bacteria, the level of light would differ. I had created a contaminant detector. A detection method, that if I continue my research, could further Sheldon Cooper character's experiment into measuring pollution. Of course, all my knowledge was from library books and the internet. So for now, my little bioluminescent lamp can serve as a replacement for my electric lamp when I read Nikola Tesla’s biography or when catching up on homework that I should have done when making my little lamp.

My problem was that I couldn’t afford to buy laboratory-controlled specimen constantly. I wasn’t a world-renowned physicist like Sheldon Cooper's character. So, I decided to use what I had and became the source. I still focused on the concept of light and so I powered a flashlight with the heat of my hand. My Piezoelectric Flashlight started as a headlight because I learned about the temperature differential. A couple months later after dealing with Peltier tiles, soldering, and led lights, I was able to power 5-foot high candles in light.

Although it is long since my 1st prototype of the Piezoelectric Flashlight, I still look back to construct my projects around the idea of being the source. For example, a boy sat next to me on the first day on Junior year math class. He was a football player and every time I went to lunch girls around me would talk about him because he came to class with a cast on from the previous night’s football game. Instead of contributing to that conversation, I went home to learn about advance wound care. I was flustered because I couldn’t even pronounce the hi-tech devices. I then developed “Ergonomic Band Aid” which is a solid-state localized therapy system that involves a program acting as a reverse heat system that soothes that injured area.

I often look back at the worn out notebook I had filled with illustrative apparatuses, some of them in crayon because when I had my epiphany, I had to grab that closest thing, which was a purple crayon. Presenting to science committees is kind of embarrassing but ends up being successful once I explain the process and the potential benefits to those in need.

Often times in school, I would have to explain what I made and the response people would have was “You know you could just buy batteries at the store”. I know someday my innovative projects will be a great help to the disadvantage and it is much more honorable than focusing on me and building a reputation for myself.

I get asked the question, “Why do you bother?” or “Why do scientists work and put themselves in such tedious work?” and honestly, nobody can possibly assume the depths and dimensions of your mind. The closest thing I’ll ever get to understanding the beautiful mind of Tesla, Nash, or Hickman, is by reading their biographies- most likely why I keep going, remembering why I first started. Be the source.

Veronica takes on the needs of the many and becomes the source of the solution. Whether it is participating in the Southern California Robot Fighting League with her robot M.O.N.T.I or simply brainstorming an idea on her workbench at home, her warrior fighting spirit should definitely be an example for other young women as well. We cannot wait to see where she goes from here...