This past Monday, two 2009-10 Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams enjoyed a coveted honor: they showcased their inventions at the White House Science Fair hosted by President Obama. The event celebrated more than a dozen winners of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) competitions and is part of the President’s Educate to Innovate campaign, which seeks to boost science and math achievement among American students.
Students from the Cesar Chavez High School InvenTeam in Laveen, Arizona, invented a physical therapy chair for medically fragile individuals to reduce muscular atrophy. Students from the Oak Ridge High School InvenTeam in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, developed a water purifier that provides more widespread access to clean water in rural Appalachia.
The Lemelson-MIT Program awards teams of high school students, teachers, and mentors up to $10,000 in grant funding to pursue yearlong invention projects that provide technological solutions to real-world problems. Each InvenTeam chooses its own problem to solve and works toward creating a prototype of their innovation. The 2010-11 teams, representing public high schools nationwide, have just been announced. They were selected based on the technical merits of their proposals for useful and unique devices. Here are just some of the projects that will be displayed at the Lemelson-MIT Program’s EurekaFest (the InvenTeams finale) in June:
- Lightweight, portable emergency shelter
- Remotely operated oil removal watercraft
- Portable hydroelectric supply station
- Alert device for hearing-impaired athletes
- Collection and recycling device for vegetable oil at restaurants
Teams are also encouraged to establish partner relationships with professionals from industry, academia, and municipalities in their communities. For example, the 2006 Alabama School of Mathematics and Science InvenTeam, which developed an anti-mine robot system, completed a three-day training session at Fort Leonard Wood’s humanitarian demining training center in Missouri, all thanks to funding from IPSCO and Ciba-Geigy.
Along with grants for new teams, the Lemelson-MIT Program also awards continuation grants of up to $2,000 to select InvenTeams from the previous year interested in establishing a sustainable program for invention in their school curricula or communities. Both Cesar Chavez High School and Oak Ridge High School received continuation grants.