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Krysta Morlan
1999 Lemelson-MIT High School Invention Apprentice

Krysta Morlan
Photo by Jim Banks
 

The Lemelson-MIT High School Invention Apprenticeship was started in 1998 as a way to provide a hands-on invention experience to a promising and innovative young inventor. Inaugural recipient and Vacaville, CA native Krysta Morlan not only demonstrated her promise as an inventor, but also her ability to turn a difficult situation into a positive, rewarding experience.

During the ninth grade, Morlan underwent close to a dozen surgical procedures to help correct the effects of diplegic cerebral palsy. After enduring hip to ankle casts in the California heat, with no way to alleviate the pain and discomfort, she invented the "Cast Cooler." The invention funnels cool air into the cast through a plastic tube, using a modified aquarium pump and a nine-volt battery that powers a small electric motor. This invention won Morlan the Duracell/NSTA Scholarship Competition and spurred her to apply for the Lemelson-MIT Invention Apprenticeship.

For Morlan's apprenticeship she was paired with mentor Colin Twitchell, Director of the Lemelson Assistive Technology Development Center at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. Twitchell helped Morlan assemble the prototype for her next invention, a water bicycle for both therapeutic and recreational uses.

Morlan's waterbike is a semi-submerged, fin-powered bicycle, which has a rudder for steering. It is made of light PVC tubing and foam to give it the correct buoyancy. She was inspired to invent the waterbike after enduring months of boring physical therapy in the pool after her surgeries. The waterbike is anything but boring—with bright pink foot pedals and orange "wings" for stability, it resembles a cartoon dragster more than a real bike. Due to its sporty design, the bike was featured in National Geographic World (May 2000) in a section on extraordinary bikes. Morlan was also listed in ID Magazine (2000) as one of the "Fresh Forty" designers under the age of 30.

According to Morlan, "The Lemelson-MIT Invention Apprenticeship had a huge impact on my life. I discovered my positive attitude, problem solving skills, interest in science, and challenges due to my disability made a great combination of tools in the field of adaptive technology."

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Krysta Morlan
Photo by Paul Shoul
 
MIT