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Avon High School InvenTeam

The Problem

Taking prescription medication correctly can be difficult, especially for the elderly. The average person over 65 takes six pills a day. The Avon High School InvenTeam decided to create a pill dispenser to make pill taking easier for the elderly.

The Proposal

The Avon High School InvenTeam proposed to develop the Automatic Pill Dispenser a self-sorting pill dispenser that reminds patients when to take their medications.

The Invention

The team's Automatic Pill Dispenser functions with a Smart Card that carries prescription data normally found on the label, such as dosage, frequency and number of pills. When swiped, the information is registered in the Central Processing Unit of the dispenser. When it is almost time for a person to take a specific pill, the CPU sends information to the motor controllers, and uses centrifugal force to line up the pills in a wheel. This force agitates one pill and pushes it over the door, and then the wheel shuts. The pill falls onto a scale to make sure the weight was only equivalent to one pill. Then it drops into a storage compartment until exact dosage time, when it is released into a cup in the drop zone. The Automatic Pill Dispenser uses either batteries or an electric outlet.

The Process

A teammate was inspired to create the Automatic Pill Dispenser because her grandmother, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, found it difficult to remember to take her prescriptions. The team decided there were three features the dispenser must have: it must alert patients at pill taking time, it must be easy to open and operate for someone with limited dexterity, and it must sort the pills automatically.

The team researched pills and attempted to contact various pharmaceutical companies, but did not receive any responses. In addition, the team surveyed a group of senior citizens to see what types of machines they would prefer. Afterward, they researched web sites of nationally recognized companies and government organizations. The Stamp Kit Company answered questions about motors and wiring the machine. The Smart Card Company explained how to input memory into the system. Furthermore, mentor Paul Santasiero helped with industrial design, and mentor Ben Grace helped with electronics.

The Avon High School InvenTeam initially split into smaller teams to assign tasks, but realized it was not efficient for them. Instead, they took turns working on different aspects of the invention. It was challenging for them to gather sufficient materials to build their prototype, so they refined the goals for the machine's capabilities. They decided to create a pill dispenser that would hold two prescriptions instead of four prescriptions as initially proposed. Through the process, the team learned the importance of working together to overcome obstacles.

Next Steps

The Avon High School InvenTeam hopes to refine and improve upon the design of the Automatic Pill Dispenser. The team would like to conduct more tests, examine the issue of cross-contamination, and build a more compact dispenser that could hold the original four prescriptions.