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BEST OF 2012: Our Top 5 Innovators Of The Year
December 29, 2012
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The world is full of creative thinkers: people who see a problem and don't just accept it - they try to do something about it.

We shouldn't be applauding all of those people (Mexican drug smugglers may be innovative, but they're still smuggling drugs), but you have to be impressed with the creative solutions in these five stories.

Check out our top 5 innovators of 2012 below, and follow the links to read the whole story.

Teen Builds His Own Tiny Home So He Can Move Out Of His Parents' House

Remember being a teenager? For a lot of us, getting out of our parents' house seemed like the ultimate dream, no matter how much we loved them. Well, teenager Austin Hay figured out a novel solution: build your own tiny house.

He constructed a 130-square foot "tiny home" in his parents' back yard, using money he'd made at summer camp and donations from family members. It's got wheels, so he'll be able to move it somewhere else when he's ready. Imagine showing up to college in your own, fully paid-off house. That's a teen dream that's easy to get behind.

One World Futbol, The Indestructible Ball For Kids In The World's Roughest Playgrounds

One thing that kids all over the world have in common: they love to play. But in impoverished areas, that can be challenging. Rough dirt playgrounds and side streets are pretty hard on a soccer ball, meaning most balls get destroyed fast, forcing kids to improvise new ones out of trash, or stop playing altogether.

That's where the One World Futbol comes in. Created by Tim Jahnigen, the ball is made from PopFoam, a near-indestructible material that stays circular and tear-free no matter what kind of punishment it faces. With a little help from musician Sting, he's made 33,000 balls so far, and he's working to bring down the cost per ball so they can reach more kids.

The Creative Side Of Mexican Drug Smugglers: They're Now Launching Drugs Into The U.S. With Cannons
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What do you do when you need to get something over a large fence, and you're not able to climb over? Well, for a group of Mexican drug smugglers trying to get marijuana into the U.S. over a border fence, the solution was obvious: you use a t-shirt cannon.

U.S. Border Patrol agents found more than 30 canisters of weed, weighing about 2.5 lbs each, that were launched from Mexico into Arizona with a carbon dioxide-powered cannon like the ones used at sporting events to fire t-shirts into the crowd. The recovered drugs were worth about $42,500. Illegal? Absolutely. But also innovative? Yep.

Definitely Not The Paperless Office: This Office Building Is Made Out Of Recycled Paper
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Offices waste an awful lot of paper, even though we've supposedly moved over to doing everything digitally. So how awesome would it be if we could build offices out of discarded paper?

That's the idea behind The Paper House, a temporary office structure in Essen, Germany. It was designed by Dratz & Dratz Architects, and it's made out of bales of compressed, recycled paper. Apparently it can handle quite a bit of rain, too. Check out the details right here.

Brilliant Idea: A Landmine Sweeper Powered By Nothing But The Wind

Landmines are a serious problem in many places. There are about 110 million anti-personnel mines buried in the ground worldwide. Finding and disarming them is expensive - it can cost as much as $1,200 to disarm just one.

Well, this invention costs just $50 apiece, and can destroy as many as five mines in a single use. Invented by Massoud Hassani, the Mine Kafon is basically a giant tumbleweed made out of bamboo and plastic. It's powered by nothing but the wind - once it's unleashed in a minefield, it drifts around on its own, setting off mines by rolling over them. Each mine destroys a few legs of the Kafon, but it can continue to roll through four or five hits. An elegant solution to a deadly problem.

Related:

A Bike Made Almost Entirely Out Of Cardboard - For Just $20, Could It Change The World?

This 15-Year-Old From Sierra Leone Builds Batteries, Transmitters And Generators Out Of Scrap

In Vancouver's Push To Be The World's Greenest City, It's Now Using Recycled Plastic In Road Asphalt

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