1999 Lemelson-MIT High School Invention Apprentice
|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 boringwith
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."