MUNSTER — Annie Ostojic began winning state and national recognition for her scientific projects and inventions as a 9-year-old student at Frank Hammond Elementary School.
Recently, Forbes Magazine named the 15-year-old Munster High School sophomore to its “30 Under 30” list joining more than 4,000 past game-changers such as basketball’s LeBron James and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
The youngest named in this year’s energy category, Ostojic is the third-youngest selected for 2018.
Nominations span the world with 15,000 to 20,000 applicants vying for a spot in 20 different categories including art, education, finance, games, health care, manufacturing and industry, and science.
According to Forbes Magazine, one “30 under 30” alum serves as a judge in each of the 20 categories, with 30 honorees named in each category. The honorees are vetted by a panel of blue-ribbon judges in their respective fields.
“I don’t know who nominated me,” Ostojic said. “In October, I received an email from Forbes to send in more information.”
On Nov. 14, Forbes notified Ostojic she had been selected, recognizing her as an innovator and student researcher for two inventions — her development of a novel microwave design, and her reflective device using indoor lighting to collect solar power and charge hearing aid batteries.
Ostojic’s invention of a better microwave involves a cavity design that uses cylindrical parabolic reflectors to cook food thoroughly while also saving energy. In 2015, the then-13-year-old Wilbur Wright Middle School student was named the top middle school science student in the nation for that microwave design and winner of the $25,000 Samueli Foundation Prize.
For that Broadcom Masters science competition in Silicon Valley, California, Ostojic was selected from a field more than 2,200 students in the nation by a panel of scientists.
Ostojic said her newest invention honored by Forbes was inspired by a friend whose hearing aids require changing 200 batteries a year.
Her reflective device uses indoor lighting from LED bulbs to generate solar energy that recharges batteries in a process known as photovoltaics.
“One hearing aid battery can recharge in a half hour,” Ostojic said about her invention that could prevent these batteries from being disposed of in landfills. “This is a huge problem. More than 3 billion of theses batteries are discarded every year.”
Currently Ostojic has two provisional patents and met former President Barack Obama twice at the White House after winning national science competitions with her microwave design.
“We went to the EPA and the patent office,” she said about her trips to Washington, D.C. “I also met Bill Nye the Science Guy and was interviewed on NPR.”
As a freshman at Munster High School, Ostojic qualified for the INTEL International Science Fair as one of 14 delegates from Indiana.
“The first time you can compete internationally is when you’re in high school. You have to be picked from your state,” she said of the May 2017 experience in which she was one of four girls in the state delegation.
Some 2,700 delegates from the U.S. and around the world gathered at the Staples Center in Los Angeles for the INTEL science fair, she said. “The purpose is to network with other kids. Each of us was given pins and a lanyard,” she said.
As the students networked, they exchanged pins that were attached to the lanyards.
Wearing her lanyard festooned with pins from various states and nations around the world, Ostojic said, “I’m still in contact with people from India, Singapore and China.”
Networking also is at the heart of Ostojic’s Forbes recognition.
As a member of Forbes' "30 Under 30" list, Ostojic will be able to network with all those previous, current and future innovators and industry leaders.
“For the past seven years, the Forbes '30 Under 30' list has emerged as the way that the world discovers the next generation of entrepreneurs and game-changers,” said Randall Lane, editor of Forbes Magazine and creator of the Forbes Under 30 franchise.
“This is the ultimate club: the people that will reinvent every field over the next century."
Ostojic said she wants to concentrate on helping younger students achieve their dreams through science.
For her own future, she said, “I’m very interested in engineering and the medical field. And working with computers.”