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High school teams receive Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam grant for invention projects

Fifteen student teams tackle everyday challenges through invention and creativity.
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Stephanie Martinovich
MIT Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Incorporating hands-on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) opportunities into today’s high-school learning environment will give tomorrow’s leaders the critical thinking skills needed to solve challenging problems.

Today, the Lemelson-MIT Program awarded 15 teams up to $10,000 each in grant funding as part of its 2014–15 InvenTeam initiative. The teams, representing schools nationwide and composed of students, teachers and community mentors, will pursue yearlong invention projects that address real-world problems. The InvenTeam initiative aims to inspire a new generation of inventors by engaging students in creative thinking, problem-solving, and hands-on learning opportunities in STEM.

“Lemelson-MIT Program InvenTeam students often embrace the role of invention as public service,” says Joshua Schuler, executive director of the Lemelson-MIT Program. “This year’s teams are tackling barriers to the well-being of those in their own communities; they are solving problems that are right in front of them by addressing safety needs, developing aids for others, and inventing green — sustainable and environmental — solutions.”

Proposed invention projects from the 2014-15 InvenTeams include a safety device for children in hot cars to prevent vehicular heatstroke; a personalized, interactive learning experience for students with special needs to help students enjoy and excel in school; and a vacuum that attaches to New York City subways to pick up garbage on the tracks to minimize environmental health hazards.

Meet the 2014–15 InvenTeams

A respected panel of invention and academic leaders from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Lemelson-MIT Program, industry, and InvenTeam student alumni selected this year’s InvenTeams from a national pool of applicants. The 2014–2015 Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams and their proposed inventions are:

Safety First 
• Concord High School (Wilmington, Del.): Metal detection system for hospital textile cleaning 
• Davenport West High School (Davenport, Iowa): Heat-detection bracelet with communication features for children and pets in warm vehicles 
• Gary and Jerri-Ann Jacobs High Tech High (San Diego, Calif.): Animal welfare containment and notification system 
• Hill Country Education Foundation (Austin, Tex.): Continuous-flow water device for fire fighters 
• South Brunswick High School (Monmouth Junction, N.J.): Proximity sensor and alert system for automobile doors 
• University High School (Irvine, Calif.): Aerial wilderness distress monitor and search system 

Aiding Others 
• Coppell High School (Coppell, Tex.): Interactive training device for students with special needs 
• Northampton High School (Northampton, Mass.): Self-feathering rowing oar for people with physical disabilities 
• Wahlert Catholic High School (Dubuque, Iowa): Anti-rollback device for manual wheelchairs 

Inventing Green 
• Baruch College Campus High School (New York, N.Y.): Detachable rubbish vacuum for New York City subways 
• Broken Arrow Senior High School (Broken Arrow, Okla.): Low-cost, sustainable fish food for developing countries 
• John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics & Science (Roxbury, Mass.): Autonomous solar-panel cleaning device 
• Laguna Beach High School (Laguna Beach, Calif.): Water-disinfection system utilizing solar power for developing countries 
• SAIL High School (Tallahassee, Fla.): Autonomous weed-removal robot for small-scale farming 
• St. Anne’s-Belfield School (Charlottesville, Va.): Lightweight, low-cost water filtration device for use after a natural disaster 

The 2014–15 InvenTeams are coached by an inspiring group of teachers who have also been recognized with some of the highest honors in STEM education. Among this year’s InvenTeam teachers are Elisabeth Jaffe (Baruch College Campus High School), recipient of the 2013 Sloan Award for Excellence in Teaching Science and Mathematics and 2011 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching; Donna Gradel (Broken Arrow Senior High School), recipient of the 2014 Medal of Excellence for Secondary Teaching in Oklahoma; Steven Sogo (Laguna Beach High School), winner of the 2013 Delta Education/CPO/Frey Scientific Award for Excellence in Inquiry-based Science Teaching; Scott Swaaley (Gary and Jerri-Ann Jacobs High Tech High), 2014 Allen Distinguished Educator Award winner; and Michael Yakubovsky (Coppell High School), National Instruments 2014 Excellence in Engineering Education Award winner.

“All of our InvenTeam teachers are inspiring. They are professional engineers, master teachers, biological researchers, and award winners. This year’s teachers seek to integrate a strong balance of science, technology, engineering, and math learning as they coach students through their invention projects and engage students in their learning,” says Leigh Estabrooks, invention education officer for the Lemelson-MIT Program. “We’re thrilled that these accomplished teachers are igniting an inventive spirit among their students.”

The 2014–15 InvenTeams will showcase their projects at EurekaFest in June 2015. EurekaFest is the Lemelson-MIT Program’s public, multiday celebration of the inventive spirit at MIT in Cambridge, Mass.

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