Mazin Mukhtar

Research Assistant, University of Maryland’s Space Systems Laboratory

Mazin is a Sudanese-American who, by age 16, had a paid position as a research assistant at the University of Maryland’s Space Systems Laboratory, one of the premiere aerospace engineering laboratories in US, as well as a job offer from Boeing. He dropped out in his third year at 18 to start working to reform the education system in California and New York, and co-founded Akshar Foundation with Parmita Sarma in 2013. Every student pays “school fees” with plastic from their homes. Teens are employed to collect plastic from homes in the area surrounding the school, a model that can be replicated in every school to effect large scale change. Teens are also employed part-time in the campus Recycling Center, sponsored by ERDF, processing non-recyclable, dry, plastic packaging into Eco-bricks. 20-40 packets that would have been dumped or burned are sequestered into a single plastic bottle, forming a sturdy brick for simple construction projects.