She’s dedicated half of her life to her craft — and now, she’s finally getting recognition. But for 8-year-old Xóchitl Guadalupe Cruz López, half of her life is four years, and the prize she won is one that’s usually reserved for adults. 

Last week, Cruz López became the first child to win a prestigious science prize from Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM), El Universal reports

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She was awarded the prize, which recognizes women’s accomplishments in science, for her solar water heater made entirely from discarded objects — including hoses, glass panels from a former construction site, and logs

She constructed the heater on her family’s rooftop, with a little bit of help from her dad. 

She said that the project was aimed at slowing climate change by reducing the need for low-income people in her rural community to cut down trees for firewood. 

“These are low-income people who don’t have the possibility to buy these heaters, so what they do is cut the trees to get firewood, which affects the world through climate change,” Cruz López said in a video for El Universal. “So, what I did is make this project, this heater, from recycled objects that don’t hurt the environment.” 

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Along with saving the environment, the young entrepreneur from the southern Mexican state of Chiapas is showing that women and girls can succeed in a male-dominated field. 

The number of women and girls in science is on the rise — and girls like Cruz López are showing just how important this is.

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According to statistics from Mexico’s national agency for science and technology, Conacyt, 36% of people in the country’s scientific register were women, which is a 65% increase over 2012. 

This still lags behind the proportion of female scientists in Latin America generally, where 45% of scientific researchers are women, according to UNESCO, but is well-above the proportion of women in science in other regions, including Europe (34%) and Asia (18.9%). 

Not only did Cruz-López impress the panel at UNAM, but she also made her parents and third-grade teacher proud. 

“It’s a great honor to know all that she has done,” her mother, Alma Lopez Gomez, said in an interview with Univision. 


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