Why She’s a MAKER: Every time she hears “it can’t be done,” she answers with a technological breakthrough that changes the world. Moving holographic images? Done. A low-cost laptop that works in rural villages? Check. Wearable brain scan tech? On its way. There’s just no stopping Jepsen, and we can’t wait to see the next impossible things she makes possible.
Rural Prodigy: Jepsen grew up on a working farm in Connecticut, where her early academic success wasn’t entirely understood or appreciated. “As a child I really loved two subjects the best and they were math and art. I think I was doing calculus by eighth grade independently. It wasn’t really celebrated in my family.”
Defying the Doubters: Jepsen got hooked on holography at Brown University and went on to MIT on a mission to create the first moving holograms. “The first public talk I gave, a guy stood up and just reamed into my presentation and said it would never work.” It did. In 1989, her team unveiled the world’s first holographic video system.
Turning Point: While pursuing her Ph.D., Jepsen was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor that forced her to drop out. “I couldn’t even subtract,” she recalls. After the tumor was removed, Jepson renewed her pursuits in tech but with a new purpose: ”To solve the big problems in the world.”
Laptops for All: In 2004, Jepsen launched a low-cost, low-power laptop that could bring technology to children in the most underdeveloped areas of the world. The doubters this time were pretty big names. “Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Craig Barrett, all said it wouldn’t work.” But the UN backed the One Laptop Per Child program. Today more than two million children are learning with these devices in their classrooms.
Persistence Beats Resistance: Jepsen cried the first time someone challenged her work, but now facing opposition is just part of her process. “It’s okay to get the criticism. I hear that for every project and product I’ve done, and literally within two to three years, I ship the very thing they said was impossible.”