Three New England high school teams have been chosen as the inaugural recipients of grants of up to $10,000 from the Lemelson-MIT Program, which challenged them to use the money to invent something of real benefit to their school or community.
InvenTeam grants, a new initiative to foster inventiveness in high school students, went to teams in Hatfield, Mass.; Littleton, N.H.; and Bow, N.H., selected for the ingenuity of their proposed inventions.
All three teams, composed of students, teachers and an industry mentor, will be working on ambitious projects in the areas of personal safety and environmental conservation. The projects will require a significant commitment in time, energy and talent over the next six months.
"The Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam Grants were designed to foster creative collaboration and innovation among young people," said Merton Flemings, the Toyota Professor Emeritus in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and director of the Lemelson-MIT Program. "Unlike a science fair or research project, we're offering an opportunity for them to work with their peers and teachers to solve a real problem for their community's benefit. We hope that the noncompetitive, team-based approach of this new program will generate excitement about the inventive process and enrich the participants' overall experience."
The design team of Smith Academy students (grades seven to 12) in Hatfield will work after classes to invent and build a solar-powered house lamp, which can focus ambient daylight and store it for nighttime use. This lamp will be a small, cost-efficient and consumer-oriented product that incorporates photovoltaics and an attractive design.
During classes, the Littleton High School team will create a prototype of a heating system that will help keep the town's main street and sidewalks free of snow and ice. This project will focus on development of a cost-effective system that will use alternative energy sources with an energy storage system.
The 11-student Bow High School team will work during classes to solve innovatively the problem of excessive windshield glare by designing and producing a glare reduction device.
Science and math teachers submitted applications for the grants last spring, highlighting their ability to organize teams and successfully implement a grant at their school. In June, 10 semifinalists were chosen and asked to submit a final application outlining a specific team project. The three winning teams will submit a final report by April 1 and will be invited to showcase their work at the Lemelson-MIT Program's annual awards ceremony in Boston later that month.
The InvenTeam Grants initiative replaces the Lemelson-MIT Program's annual High School Invention Apprenticeship, which provided a hands-on learning experience to one inventive high school student for each of the past four years. Next year 10 grants will be awarded to high schools nationwide; in 2004-05, as many as 25 grants will be made.
The Lemelson-MIT Program was established in 1994 by the late independent inventor Jerome H. Lemelson and his wife, Dorothy. The program's mission is to raise the stature of inventors and innovators and to foster invention and innovation among young people.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 30, 2002.