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Centennial High School InvenTeam

The Problem

All humans suffer from the common cold, the flu, or other infectious viruses at some point in their lives. This problem can often be attributed to improper hand washing, especially among children. The Centennial High School InvenTeam took matters into their own hands and created a soap dispenser with a timer to encourage children to wash their hands for twenty seconds, in order to prevent germs and the spread of diseases.

The Proposal

The Centennial High School InvenTeam planned to develop a soap dispenser that started a timer after it dispensed the soap, teaching children to wash their hands for 20 seconds, as recommended by The Centers for Disease Control and Protection. As they began to research, they tried to figure out what was the most practical and efficient design for a timed soap dispenser that was also engaging to children.

The Invention

The team discovered that the best timer inside the soap dispenser was one that made use of two density gradients that would act against each other when the circular container was inverted. They paired a shaft mechanism with a rack and pinion system to invert the circular container. This shaft mechanism operates like a ballpoint pen, so when the shaft is pushed down, it causes the rack and pinion system to invert the circular container. The lighter of the two gradients is also responsible for spinning a disc to keep the child's attention on the dispenser while the timer counts down.

The Process

Brainstorming and teamwork were key factors in the success of the Centennial High School InvenTeam. The students developed their invention idea through SAFEH2O (Student Advocates For Environmental Water), a student-run non-profit organization at their school that focuses on health issues such as hygiene. After researching hand-washing statistics, the team decided to create a soap dispenser with a timer to instruct children how long to wash their hands.

The team wrote its Invention Statement to describe what purpose their invention would serve, and then divided into groups with designated tasks. After evaluating and narrowing down the design concepts, the team began to experiment and create models of a soap dispenser. As they moved into the final stages of refinement, they enlisted the help of a few professional engineers, including MIT alumni. One engineer collaborated with the team to work on a professional CAD program, Solid Edge, to generate data for plastic machines to produce parts for their invention. For their final step, they placed an order for a prototype dispenser with a manufacturer and waited for the shipment to arrive.

Next Steps

The Centennial High School InvenTeam continues to explore production of the dispensers on a larger scale and, furthermore, educate the public about the invention. They also plan to conduct surveys to evaluate the effectiveness of the product so they can make necessary changes and pursue patent protection. Although this product was intended to educate children, the team hopes it will also remind adults how important it is to wash their hands. Additionally, the students have become involved with public policy they are trying to pass a law that will require public employees in Maryland to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds.