Accomplished inventor, artist, writer, student and self-proclaimed film nerd all appropriately describe Ann Makosinski.
At 15, she was the lone Canadian at Google’s annual science mega-competition, winning her category with her invention – a battery-free, ever-ready flashlight powered by the heat of human hands.
Makosinski catapulted into international headlines.
The St. Michaels University School grad, now 25, made international headlines then and the accolades continued, such as positions on TIME and Forbes magazines’ 30-under-30 lists, and appearances with Jimmy Fallon.
The Google win inspired the Saanich resident. Makosinski remembers thinking: “If this is possible, I can do anything.”
She filled the next decade with a variety of creations.
Upon graduation in 2015, Makosinski turned expectations on their head. She felt self and societal pressure to be a speaker and a scientist, but instead of flowing in the path she’d forged, she leaped outside the box, declining an engineering scholarship to pursue the arts at the University of British Columbia.
“It allowed me a bit of leeway,” Makosinski said, seated at home in Saanich on a cool January afternoon.
The Arts One program was flexible enough for her to take absences, and catch up on work, allowing world travel for events and speaking engagements. While she spent just over two years at UBC, travel and speaking gigs continue to this day.
In the 2018/19 school year, she transferred to the University of Victoria but then in summer 2019, the summer she was 21, Makosinski was accepted to a six-week acting intensive in New York City.
“This was a big stretch for me,” she said.
But those tend to work out best for her, reaching outside her comfort zone, trying new things and sometimes even failing – though not this time.
“Acting classes force you to leave who you are and your ego at the door,” she said.
She found herself at HB Studios, where favourite famous old-timers such as Gene Wilder once studied, a few days a week.
The other days were spent developing a series of children’s toys that run off green energy.
“It was a really good balance of science and arts,” she said.
Makosinski was in New York in spring 2020 when things went quiet and could have been lonely. She found herself immersed in her imagination, writing and drawing.
The result includes several books, TV shows and toys pitched to a variety of sources. She made some business bumbles and had to walk away from a few projects.
“2021 for me was completely starting over … Those were the times when again I learned most about myself,” Makonsinski said. She realized her ideas hold value.
In 2022, she also became a face of Maybelline New York’s new Green Edition makeup line, a major effort towards sustainable practices in the beauty space. That summer she returned Greater Victoria where she’s now finishing her English degree, with a minor in film studies, at UVic.
It’s among her life goals to host a show connecting science and art, and she’s been a part of several podcast, video and television projects.
Makosinski started writing her first year of university but “nothing really clicked and I’m kind of glad because I wasn’t ready for that.” In 2021, she met someone through the Rachel Mills Literary in the UK – a time she started seriously considering what a book might look like. It parlayed into a book deal with Knopf Canada.
While the idea is equally terrifying and exciting, she’s focused on her book which is set to be released in spring 2024. The Inventing Mindset aims to break the societal image of an old man in a white coat as the inventor.
“I hope the book is an inspiration to people to learn more about the world.”
She’s currently collecting perspectives to broaden beyond her own, alongside finishing that degree at UVic.
Not one to languish with spare time, the former competitor becomes the judge this month in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest that has youth use STEM learning alongside Samsung technology to solve real world problems. Grand prize winners are announced in April.
“I’m excited to see what kind of things they come up with.”
The contest is open to youth aged 16 to 25. Jan. 31 is the deadline to apply online here.
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