Xóchitl and her solar water heater. Xóchitl and her solar water heater.

Scientist, 9, awarded for solar water heater

Prestigious science prize given to a child for the first time

A nine-year-old girl from Chiapas has been awarded a prestigious science prize for a solar water heater she designed and made.


Xóchitl Guadalupe Cruz López of San Cristóbal de las Casas received the ICN Women’s Recognition Award from the Institute of Nuclear Science at the National Autonomous University (UNAM).

It is the first time the prize has been awarded to a child.

Xóchitl explained that she was motivated to invent her project because of the cold climate in her home town.

“In San Cristóbal it’s very cold most of the year so if people shower with cold water they can get sick with respiratory illnesses and constantly have to go to the doctor,” she said.

Xóchitl consequently set out to design and make a low-cost water heater that doesn’t harm the environment and is accessible to people of limited economic means.

“I want to help with my knowledge because there are a lot of poor people here,” she said.


Xóchitl started with some basic sketches in her notebook but soon progressed to the stage when she was ready to gather the materials required for her homemade creation.

The young scientist explained that her solar heater is made of a 15-meter black hose, 10 PET bottles that she painted black, plastic cable ties, a wooden base, black nylon and recycled glass.

“I used the glass doors of a broken cooler to create a greenhouse effect . . .” Xóchitl explained.

The heater, which she installed on her home’s rooftop, has the capacity to heat 10 liters of water to between 35 and 45 C.

Xóchitl’s father Lucio, an indigenous education teacher at a pre-school, encouraged his daughter during each step of the process and said he was pleased with what she has achieved.

“I’m very proud of my daughter because here in Chiapas it’s very difficult to excel in science . . . As teachers we don’t have that specialization and we’re finding out little by little how to teach the young ones. The truth is that we’ve learned a lot with her,” he said.

Young scientist Xóchitl López.
Young scientist Xóchitl López.

Xóchitl also received support to complete her heater from the UNAM Adopt a Talent Program, which encourages students from pre-school to high school to undertake scientific projects.

Apart from science, she also has a passion for soccer and mathematics and hopes one day to get a doctorate in the latter. But before then she has more immediate goals to achieve.

“My brother and I want to improve the heater,” she explained.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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  • CensorSheep

    you have to be 9 years old in Mexico to be brilliant. Everyone else has to run around and sell chicles all day.

  • Joshua Rodriguez

    please people say something positive for once omg.

    • W. Jones Jordan

      Good idea. Thanks.

  • djr4nger

    She is the future of Mexico – and that future looks very bright indeed!

  • Anthony Stein

    Good job! Question..does it really get that cold in San Cristobal?

    • W. Jones Jordan

      In México the climate depends largely on elevation. The volcanos outside México City are snow-covered year round while just South of the capital, here in Acapulco, the temperature rarely drops to 70°F. When it does, everyone buttons up.

    • cooncats

      It sure did this year.

    • Feeling cold depends upon one’s experiences. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, temperatures to about 5 C are fine with me, but it’s starting to get a bit chilly. Somebody from North Dakota might not do fine until about -5 C. Mexican are accustomed to a warmer climate, so anything lower than 10 C might be viewed as cold.

  • This girl rocks! She’s a new hero of mine. It is innovative and useful and practical. It solves a real problem (providing hot water). It does so be re-purposing plastic bottles that might other wise go to a landfill. In doing so, it reduces (even if minimally) one problem while solving another. It is easy enough to do so people can do it themselves and once it is done, it reduces their cost of living and their carbon footprint. We need to celebrate such intelligence channeled to solve real world problems.