The Renaissance Teen A scientist, artist, public speaker, and environmental activist, this Kingston teen is leaving her mark on the world — and making it a better place.
hat if we could use our roads and highways to harvest the energy from the cars driving over
them? It’s an idea Olivia Colombo had 26 NOVEMBER2018
and built a prototype for… when she was in the eighth grade. With her Green Highways Project, Olivia proposes using highways for a new source of renewable energy. She invented a technology that captures
kinetic and thermal energy from the highway and converts it to electrical energy. She received a provisional patent for her invention, and has been recognized nationally and internationally by ProjectCSGIRLS and
MIT THINK. Olivia wants to change the world through science – and she’s well on her way – but she is also deeply passionate about environmental and humanitarian issues. She’s won national science fairs and volunteered as missionary in Haiti. She’s spoken at schools about the gender gap in technology, taught kids to program robots, and has painted murals at homeless shelters. She’s a scientist, artist, public speaker and changemaker – a Renaissance woman, if you will, though she’s only 17. “No matter what I do, my goal is to better the world with every step I take and inspire others to do the same,” she said. A member of the Jane Goodall Institute’s (JGI) Roots & Shoots National Youth Leadership Council, Olivia helps lead service campaigns and travels the country spreading Dr. Jane’s message that “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” Olivia speaks and Skypes into classrooms at schools about service learning and the life of Dr. Jane Goodall and Roots & Shoots. “Sometimes I’m talking to ten kindergartners about planting a garden, and other times it’s a auditorium full of people, but it’s always the same message: you see a problem in your community and make a plan about how to change it and make a difference. Making a difference doesn’t necessarily mean changing the whole problem. You can change it for just one person,” she said. Her own humanitarian initiatives include local food and clothing drives and regular mission trips to Haiti, where the Kingston native said she “left a piece of her heart.” It’s another place that she’s been able to weave her love of science into her passion for the environment and humanitarian issues. “We can use science and physics to help people. Combining the care of a person, their spiritual needs, helping the economically disadvantaged –it’s all social justice,” she said. Olivia, who is also a talented artist, recently illustrated an e-book for JGI on community service. “Find what you’re good at. Find what you’re passionate about. And put your skills and talents to work to make a difference,” she said. Olivia is currently a freshman at Boston College, where she is studying Catholic Theology and Environmental Science with a concentration in physics. She sells her artwork through Etsy, blogs for Roots & Shoots, and has her own mini-series in collaboration with CatholicTV. To learn more about Olivia and all her work, go to oliviaroseart.com.