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The Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams Odyssey offered a glimpse of what future generations of inventors might look like, provided the right encouragement and opportunities.
From June 14-17, 18 teams of high school inventors were on campus for the InvenTeams Odyssey -- the teams' final event in which to showcase, present and demonstrate inventions sponsored by the Lemelson-MIT Program. The program gave teams up to $10,000 each to develop their inventions during the 2005-2006 school year.
InvenTeams from Bayfield, Wis., to Bend, Ore. and Roxbury, Mass., worked on inventions to solve problems students themselves had identified, including pollution caused by burning fields of Kentucky bluegrass in Moscow, Idaho, and landmines left in farming land in third-world countries.
"The process and the perseverance it takes to carry inventions to fruition is really the most important thing in this whole experience for us," said InvenTeam teacher David Gundale of Johnson High School in St. Paul, Minn. "A lot of times, kids wanted to quit; they couldn't see the end. And that's one thing about engineering: It takes awhile to see an end. I think the Odyssey capped it off really nicely to show them there's a neat platform for them to stand on and be proud of at the end."
Student Emily Jacob said her team from St. Paul's school in Concord, N.H. thought that once they had obtained accelerometer kits, they could sit down and make something. The team was working on a wearable sensor for elderly residents of assisted living facilities that would alert staff to a fall. They found out they needed to know which accelerometers to use and how -- choices they learned to make through trial and error.
"Learning how to teach myself is the most valuable thing I have taken from this experience," said her teammate, Vicky Thomas.
"When I came to the Odyssey, I was very scared, because I felt like I didn't know much about it, and there are people here with a neural-directed wheelchair who seemed outrageously smart," Thomas said. "But, then as people came up to me and asked me about our invention, I realized in the depth of the answers I can give them how much I actually learned."
For more information, visit web.mit.edu/inventeams/.