We met with Raymond Wang to continue our series, “The Science of Disruption”, a discussion thread devoted to the stories of youth who’ve turned their rooms, basements, and garages into game-changing innovation labs without formal training in their fields.

When it comes to shaking things up, Raymond Wang is the real deal.  At 17, Raymond knows the eyes of creative design are blind to age and it shows in his work. That is why he already bears the titles of President and CEO, he is set to commercialize his inventions, was part of Canada’s Top 20 Under 20, and most recently took 1st prize at this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (IISEF). Representing Team Canada in the fair, his design earned him $75k, the top slot in the engineering category. His winning design is a completely reimagined air intake mechanism for improving air quality and stemming germ transmission in airplane cabins. It’s 55 times more effective than existing designs and better yet, economically practical to retrofit existing fleets.

Raymond’s humility and down-to-earth approach is uplifting to say the least. As creative and community leader, he assured us that he is committed to inspiring others to follow their passion with purpose and make the world better through their own creative endeavours. Read on, soak up some of Raymond’s refreshing mindset about what you need  in order ‘to do your own thing.’

What motivates you to do what you do?

Everything I do is motivated by an idea or spark to change something society is struggling with. I’m motivated by the drive to make a positive change in the lives of everyday people.

What made you kick-start your own 'lab'?

It's all been driven by a need. A need to look into areas that haven’t been explored and to work with new and different materials to take on challenges we face. That all lead me to doing background research on how to kick-start my own lab, so that I could explore my curiosity.

How did you get into these complex fields without formal education and at such a young age?

Like I said, it started with an idea that I wanted to turn into a reality. The access to peer-reviewed information is instantaneous these days. Formal training isn’t a required to pursue advanced projects. Age is becoming less and less of a barrier for youth to pursue the research that they are interested in.

You are also a filmmaker, has leveraging film and social media helped you?

It’s great being able to leverage film and social media. It helps get the message across in a more engaging and personal way, especially when you are starting out at the grassroots. It can really help small startups and projects get traction and publicity.

You’ve probably encountered setbacks. How have you managed them?

There are always setbacks and challenges. The challenges are what make science and designing fun! Setbacks actually make me think harder about what I’m doing, so I welcome the challenges as opportunities to grow.

What's been the reaction of other scientists and innovators to your work?

Everyone has been really supportive! I think a lot of older scientists and innovators realize how important it is to encourage the next generation to start exploring and researching their interests early on.

Any bit of wisdom to share for others who are eager to do the same?

It’s a basic idea, if you have a passion, go after it, don’t hold back. It doesn’t matter if it's music, art, film, science, sport, etc. Don’t question it, just go for it. Take the initiative and don’t be afraid to follow your gut. The next generation of innovators will be made from those who explore what they are truly passionate for in their own time.

What's ahead for you this year?

I’m going to be working hard to raise awareness about youth innovation with aim of inspiring more of it!