Cambridge, Mass., October 9, 2007 — When they're not involved with after-school sports or part-time jobs, what do some of today's most-ambitious high school students do with their spare time? They invent potential breakthrough technologies, from position-indicating radio beacons for commercial fishing vessels, to robotic coconut tree climbers, to gauging power potential via wind-sensing balloons.
To encourage this inventive spirit, the Lemelson-MIT Program has selected 16 new high schools to participate in its InvenTeams initiative and each school will receive up to $10,000 each in grant funding for teams of students to identify a real-world problem and invent a practical solution to it. InvenTeams is a premier national grants initiative that enhances science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education by offering students a comprehensive, self-directed invention experience.
A prestigious panel of judges composed of educators and researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University, representatives from industry, MIT staff and alumni, and former Lemelson-MIT Award winners selected this year's InvenTeams from a national pool of applicants.
"The InvenTeams applications we received this year were truly amazing," said Leigh Estabrooks, the Lemelson-MIT Program's InvenTeams grants officer. "The students all demonstrated imagination, initiative and confidence that they could help solve some of the pressing issues of our time.
"It's imperative that we continue to foster this spirit of invention in today's youth and enable teachers to create a culture of invention in their schools," Estabrooks continued. "We hope the InvenTeams experience ignites passions for science, technology, engineering and math. We can't wait to see the prototypes these students will invent and the relationships they will form through this experience."
In addition to working with other students and their teachers, Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams are also encouraged to work with mentors from their communities. In many cases, companies support the work of individual InvenTeams by providing additional funding, materials and mentors who work alongside the students, offering them valuable insights and encouragement.
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"The focus on real-world problem solving distinguishes InvenTeams from high school invention and robotics competitions," Estabrooks said. "Everyone can get something valuable out of the experience, regardless of whether they are strong in science, engineering or math. As the National Science Foundation's recent study on gender in science and engineering reports, hands-on opportunities and mentor support are especially critical in keeping girls interested in pursuing careers in the sciences."
"The InvenTeams initiative embodies the Lemelson-MIT Program's major goals: to inspire youth to pursue creative lives and careers through invention, and encourage mentoring relationships between established industry professionals and the innovators of tomorrow," noted Joshua Schuler, executive director of the Lemelson-MIT Program. "InvenTeams teaches problem-solving, collaboration, presentation and project management skills that are valuable to lead creative, successful lives in college and beyond."
The 2007-2008 Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams come from public and private high schools in urban, suburban and rural communities across the United States. The grant recipients and their proposed inventions are:
- Charles Herbert Flowers High School (Springdale, Md.): Portable lock device for the blind
- Gann Academy (Waltham, Mass.): Weight-stabilizing compact stretcher
- Hiram High School (Hiram, Ga.): Automated floor mop and dryer
- Norview High School (Norfolk, Va.): Adaptive communication device for people with cerebral palsy
- Rockport High School (Rockport, Mass.): Pneumatic auto-deployment system for emergency position-indicating radio beacons on fishing vessels
- Saratoga Springs High School (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.): Plant and flower success indicator to measure garden conditions
- Sidwell Friends School (Washington, D.C.): Ice and frost prevention device for windshields
- Brillion High School (Brillion, Wis.): Electric all-terrain multi-purpose lifting machine
- Edgewood Fine Arts Academy (San Antonio, Texas): Robotic butterfly
- Farmington Harrison High School (Farmington Hills, Mich.): Aquatic autonomous remote monitoring system to measure ecological variables
- Great River School (St. Paul, Minn.): Aerial wind-sensing device that determines optimal locations for wind turbines
- Saint Thomas Academy (Mendota Heights, Minn.): Electric motorcycle with compressible "crush zones" for urban commuter safety
- University of Chicago Laboratory School (Chicago, Ill.): Automatic pancake machine that integrates Web 2.0 technology
- Oregon Episcopal School (Portland, Ore.): Human-powered irrigation pump
- Troy High School (Fullerton, Calif.): Robotic coconut tree climbing device
- West Valley High School (Spokane, Wash.): Fish "escalator" to ferry salmon over man-made dams and into their spawning grounds
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In addition to the 16 new InvenTeams this year, matching grants up to $2,000 are available to continuing InvenTeams to help sustain their interest in invention and extend the InvenTeams experience to more students. Continuation funds have enabled the Littleton High School InvenTeam from Littleton, N.H., to sustain a culture of invention and interest among students since its inaugural year in 2002-2003.
Every spring, InvenTeams have the opportunity to demonstrate their inventions at the InvenTeams Odyssey at the MIT campus in Cambridge, Mass. This year, the InvenTeams Odyssey will be part of the Lemelson-MIT Program's EurekaFest, which brings together prominent inventors, students and the Greater Boston community for a weeklong celebration of the inventive spirit.
InvenTeams applications for the 2008-2009 school year are now available at http://web.mit.edu/inventeams/.
About the Lemelson-MIT Program
The Lemelson-MIT Program recognizes outstanding inventors, encourages sustainable new solutions to real-world problems, and enables and inspires young people to pursue creative lives and careers through invention.
Jerome H. Lemelson, one of the world's most prolific inventors, and his wife Dorothy founded the Lemelson-MIT Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994. It is funded by the Lemelson Foundation, a private philanthropy that celebrates and supports inventors and entrepreneurs in order to strengthen social and economic life. More information on the Lemelson-MIT Program is online at http://web.mit.edu/invent/.