Of the two standing ovations on day one of the BIF-6, (Business Innovation Factory Collaborative Summit) the loudest and most spontaneous one was for a 12-year-old innovator named Cassandra Lin.
At turns charming, genuine, and precocious, Cassandra has devoted her time to helping create an award-winning recycling program that generates fuel for the needy in her community.
By way of contrast, when I was her age, I was still trying to spell the word “hello” in a bowl of Campbell’s alphabet soup.
The program, called Project T.G.I.F. is an acronym for “Turn Grease into Fuel.” It’s mission is to encourage residents and restaurants to bring their used cooking oil to the town’s transfer station to be recycled.
A biodiesel company then processes it into usable fuel. All of the team’s proceeds are donated to help heat the homes of needy people in Westerly, Rhode Island. The T.G.I.F. Project is an outgrowth of the Westerly Innovations Network (WIN), a student community service organization started by her father, Jason Lin, in 2002.
The catalyst for the project happened when Cassandra attended the Rhode Island Green Expo two years ago. She discovered that Westerly had a FOG program. (Fats, Oils and Grease). Local restaurants and residents were pouring gallons down their drains and clogging up the town sewage pipes.
While researching the problem on the internet, she found an article about SF Greasecycle, a municipal project in California to collect and recycle cooking oil. The ingenuity was to apply this idea to generate money for people who couldn’t afford to heat their homes.
Cassandra and her fellow WIN team created a blueprint that included publicizing the project, making connections with town officials, reaching out to over 80 restaurants in the surrounding area and sharing their mission with other students with a series of imaginative videos and presentations.
If the definition of innovation is “ideas that create value,” then Cassandra and her team mates have hit the equivalent of the grand slam.
Her insights and dedication prove, once again, that true innovation is ageless.