Local invention team one of 15 of the Lemelson-MIT Program

By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News

A Four Points area invention team is one of 15 teams nationwide that has been awarded up to $10,000 in grant funding from the Lemelson-MIT Program as part of its 2014–2015 InvenTeam initiative.

The teams, representing schools across the country, comprised of students, teachers and community mentors will pursue year-long invention projects that address real-world problems.

The mission of the Four Points area team is to invent a continuous flow water device for firefighters. The idea stemmed from the 2011 Labor Day weekend wildfires that affected Steiner Ranch. They will showcase their ideas at Massachusetts Institute of Technology next summer at EurekaFest.

“I am extremely proud of this outstanding group of young men and women, who competed with hundreds of teams from around the nation for this opportunity,” said Jan Masterson, educator sponsor of the local Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam and Four Points Middle School science teacher.Hill Country Education Foundation Team Photo

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.

“When a group of former students and Kai Lamb of Hill Country Education Foundation approached me to sponsor a group of local area high school students, it was hard to say no,” Masterson said.

“Their motivation for seeking the InvenTeam grant was sparked by the tragedy of the 2011 wildfires that raged through the Steiner Ranch community causing devastating damage and loss to local residents,” she added.

The team spent their summer brainstorming, researching and interviewing area firefighters to gain an empathetic view into problems that affect the safety of the firefighters and cause critical time delays. This endeavor involves all aspects of creating a prototype design, resourcing, testing, and marketing a product.

Masterson trained with Lemelson-MIT on the MIT campus in Boston in June and came back with information to help guide the students in their quest to create a useful and unique product for the firefighting industry.

Kai Lamb, president of Hill Country Education Foundation, said programs like the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam initiative provide students with an exceptional educational experience, but they don’t happen by themselves.

“They take students that are willing to do the work, they require empowering teachers such as Jan Masterson, and they need community support through organizations like HCEF, to bring it all together. We are fortunate to have these type of students, to have teachers like Mrs. Masterson in LISD and we are fortunate to have a community that supports HCEF so it can sponsor programs like the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam,” Lamb said.

Nationwide, this year’s 15 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,” said Joshua Schuler, executive director of the Lemelson-MIT Program.

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, Texas): 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, Texas): 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 Lemelson-MIT Program is made possible by Jerome H. Lemelson, one of U.S. history’s most prolific inventors, and his wife Dorothy. Together they founded the Lemelson-MIT Program in 1994 and it is funded by the Lemelson Foundation and administered by the School of Engineering at MIT, an institution with a strong ongoing commitment to creating meaningful opportunities for K-12 STEM education.