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By Jelani Odlum

Did you know that a team of high school students from Elizabethtown, Kentucky developed a wearable personal monitor and safety system for industrial workers? Or that another group from Salem, Oregon invented an adaptive drinking cup for people suffering from dysphagia, a swallowing disorder which often affects stroke victims? Both of these impressive teams of young inventors were assembled and coached thanks to the InvenTeams initiative, a Lemelson-MIT program that is funded by The Lemelson Foundation and administered by the School of Engineering at MIT. This unique and hands-on program awards up to $10,000 to teams of high school students to invent technological solutions to real-world problems of their own choosing.

EurekaFest at MIT, which took place this year from June 19-20, is the annual culminating event for InvenTeams from across the US to gather and showcase their working prototypes to the greater community. I attended EurekaFest to present to students and educators on the background of the Michelson IP initiative and the intellectual property education resources available to them. Throughout the event, I had the pleasure of speaking to students, educators, and community partners who were passionate about expanding upon and amplifying STEM and invention education.

A high point of EurekaFest was the InvenTeams presentations, where student teams explained the background of their invention process and shared their prototypes with the audience. If I left with one takeaway, it would be how serious these students took up the challenge and calling to use the resources and guidance of the program to address real problems within their communities.

There was the InvenTeam from Casa Grande, Arizona that developed a fire defense system and foam coating for homes that prevents the spread of wildfires in high-risk fire regions. Another team from Canfield, Ohio built a danger alert system for schools based on electromagnetic locks and lighting indicators, to provide a layer of safety during potential school shootings – an issue dear to the members of the team I spoke with during the showcase. Many students discussed how they engaged not only among their team members, but within their school ecosystems and local business communities to explore problems and collectively brainstorm solutions.

This is the power of invention education. EurekaFest is a shining example of what’s possible when we invest in our students and empower them with the skillset and the confidence to become local changemakers. Congratulations to the 2019 InvenTeams! 

For more on the student inventions, visit the InvenTeams webpage.