Katie Castle is up early each morning at her home in Pottstown, Pa., in the kitchen, picking out cookie dough, peanut butter, cherry pie filling and frosting to bake for dinner. The only problem: A family friend still has to open the fridge and pour the milk.
“It’s pretty funny,” she says.
That’s because she’s 14, and looks like it.
Her blue eyes scan the pages of a notebook balanced at the breakfast table. “These are cookies for mom,” she says, stretching out. Her long legs point toward the kitchen wall, her laptop nearby.
A laptop? A computer? It doesn’t matter. After starting at age 6, Katie began coding at 8, then created her own software. One day, while playing Minecraft, she realized that using a screen instead of the mouse made for faster gameplay, and the game evolved into a kind of interactive software.
Katie has found herself at the center of the science world, as the young teen tech whiz from Doylestown, Pa., who wants to make a solar-powered car. Last week, she was nominated for a Prince William Earthshot Prize, presented by NASA for the best entrepreneurial project involving technology.
Katie started by researching energy-harvesting technology, and then settled on using solar panels. She hopes to build a car that runs on solar energy for five years, after which she would need a way to recharge its batteries. Her main focus is solar power; she’s not keen on the alternatives, such as electrical power from solar panels.
“I find it hard to understand,” she says. “Solar doesn’t protect the environment as well as all the other forms of energy.”
Katie’s sister, Hannah, who is four years younger, volunteered to help her do research, and eventually helped write a business plan for the solar-powered car company. She is happy to see her sister start out on her own, though they’re often at odds over her inventions. “We argue all the time,” Katie says. “But we love each other.”