12-years-old's creation wins $20K
Lydia Denton might be young, but that's not stopping her from saving lives and making an impact in the world.The 12-year-old girl from North Carolina was recently named the winner of CITGO's Fueling Education Student Challenge, where she earned $20,000 after creating the winning invention of a car seat device that detects when babies have been left in a hot car and can prevent them from dying.
"Winning the money was cool, but I really care about saving lives," Lydia tells PEOPLE. "My first thought was, 'Maybe no babies will die this summer!'"
The soon-to-be seventh grader says she became inspired to make the invention after watching the news and seeing that babies were being left in hot cars, often by accident.
"I did some research and saw that it happened a lot and that it wasn't just neglectful parents," she explains. "I got really upset and wanted to try and help."
RELATED: What to Know About Hot Car Deaths and How to Avoid Them "At first, I thought about raising money for the families, but that wouldn't fix the problem. I wanted to invent something that could prevent the deaths from happening," she adds. "My mom has a saying: 'Stop complaining and do something about it.' Complaining or being sad doesn't solve the problem, we have to take action to make a change."
Lydia did exactly that. She began researching what was already on the market, before figuring out what the problem was and how she could fix it. "What I wanted was a device that had the ability to get 911 there to save the baby if a parent didn't respond," she shares. "I also wanted something everyone could afford."
A current student at a Title 1 school, Lydia notes that while most "new cars come with warnings and smart car seats," many of her friends and family "don't have hundreds of dollars to buy a new car or a very expensive car seat." "Also, babies grow!" she adds. "I wanted it to be a portable thing that you could move from one car seat to the next and keep using."