This past week, Rise—the signature program of former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Wendy Schmidt’s Schmidt Futures—in partnership with the Rhodes Trust announced its first-ever 100 global winners, including five design and sustainability innovators. The inaugural group hails from a range of fields: From design and sustainability to climate change, medicine, and energy. The winners represent the organization’s first cohort of 15–17-year-old lost Einsteins—or students who otherwise wouldn’t have access to the resources needed to bring their dreams to fruition—who are changing the world as we know it.
From the tens of thousands of applicants, there were a clutch of winners with unique perspectives on architecture or design, particularly at the nexus of design and sustainability. Winners receive lifetime benefits, including education support, a three-week residential summit, and mentorship. In the realm of design and sustainability the five young innovators that were selected are Rezon Hansel Gautama from Indonesia, Valentina Barrón García from Mexico, Pablo Luengo Martin from Spain, and Maria Eduarda dos Reis Magalhães Azevedo and Guilherme Ricci Coube from Brazil.
Launched in November 2020, Rise is the flagship program of the larger one-billion-dollar philanthropic commitment the Schmidts made in 2019, fueled by their desire to identify and support undiscovered and potentially overlooked youth around the world. The couple founded Schmidt Futures, which funds Rise, in 2017, and Wendy is also the president of The Schmidt Family Foundation, which she cofounded with Eric in 2006.
For their Rise projects, all five of the winners aim to use their environmentally-oriented design savvy to solve everyday problems in impoverished communities. “Hansel Gautama, the winner from Indonesia, for instance, isn’t asking for a car, as many 16 year olds might do. Instead, he’s built a car that runs on alternative fuel,” Wendy Schmidt tells Architectural Digest. In fact, the young Chinese-Indonesian inventor, who has erected a hydrogen fuel model car as a mode of sustainable transportation, strives to use his technical skills to one day be a tech entrepreneur who partners with nonprofits.
Ricci Coube and Luengo Martin, residing across the Atlantic from each other, both seek to transform waste products into clean, renewable energy. Ricci Coube approaches that goal via sustainable engineering projects, like building bamboo bicycles and a patent-pending household waste recycling appliance (for his Rise project, he created Conecta Panorama, an initiative that promotes connectivity in an underprivileged community in São Paulo). Luengo Martin, on the other hand, devotes his focus to reliable electricity, a pressing need around the world, especially as extreme weather becomes more frequent. For his Rise project, the young visionary designed microbial fuel cells that can generate electricity, partly by using waste sourced from a local facility.
It’s the same ethos of building a better future that drives Barrón García and Eduarda dos Reis Magalhães Azevedo, Schmidt says. “They’re working at a distance on the same problem: Creating sustainable food and water systems where they are,” she says. In that regard, Barrón García prototyped a hydroponic system for fruit and vegetable production ripe for use in food-insecure regions, and aspires to immerse herself in the study of architecture. Eduarda dos Reis Magalhães Azevedo, for her part, built a vessel to trap rainwater on her roof and convert it into a source of clean drinking water via a process that implements natural and sustainable materials, inspired by her own experience as a member of a low-income household.