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Posts Tagged ‘invention’

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Photo: Mashable
Teen girls invent portable, solar-powered tent for people experiencing homelessness.

I worked at MIT in the early 2000s in the same building as a foundation that gave grants to inventors, both established inventors and young people. How the family made the money that funded the foundation is a complicated story, but this support for inventors is a big deal, so hats off for that!

Brittany Levine Beckman writes at Mashable about an invention by an inspiring group of teen girls.

“As Daniela Orozco picks off excess plastic bordering a 3D-printed box, she recalls how many homeless people she saw on her way to school when she was a high school freshman. Just one.

“Four years later, the number has multiplied. … In the San Fernando Valley, homelessness increased 36% to 7,094 people last year, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Agency’s annual count. Daniela and her friends wanted to help, but giving money wasn’t an option.

” ‘Because we come from low-income families ourselves, we can’t give them money,’ the high school senior says. …

“That was the starting point for their invention: a solar-powered tent that folds up into a rollaway backpack. The girls and 10 others from their high school had never done any hands-on engineering work before, but with the help of YouTube, Google, and trial-and-error, they got it done. They hope that one day, their tent will improve the lives of people experiencing homelessness in their community.

“The teen girls from San Fernando High School … none of whom had coded, soldered, sewn, or 3D-printed before they joined forces, won a $10,000 grant from the Lemelson-MIT Program to develop the invention.

“They were recruited by DIY Girls, a nonprofit that teaches girls from low-income communities about engineering, math, and science, to go after the grant.

” ‘I knew I wanted to apply for it, but I needed a team,’ says Evelyn Gomez, 29, the executive director of DIY Girls. ‘I went back to my calculus teacher at my high school and did a hands-on recruitment activity.’ …

“Hands-on STEM education at schools, especially for girls in low-income communities, is severely lacking, Evelyn says. Women make up just 29% of the science and engineering workforce, according to the National Science Board, a federal agency. Around 6% of female working scientists and engineers are Hispanic or Latina.

” ‘I studied aerospace engineering. When I was getting my master’s degree, I was often the only girl in the class and definitely the only Latina in the class. … You’re going to represent the Latina community in a bad light if you ask a stupid question or you’re going to represent women in a bad light if you ask a stupid question, and of course that’s not true. But I felt that.’ …

“In the beginning, the team depended on Evelyn for guidance, but they quickly started doing everything on their own. If they had an issue with a solar panel not functioning properly, they watched YouTube videos. If they couldn’t figure out a stitch pattern, they Googled it. The girls even developed their own inspirational hashtag: #wegetitdone.

” ‘You’re learning new things you’ve never even heard of or even thought of,’ says Chelly Chavez, who learned the programming language C++ to get the technical aspects of the tent to behave. The tent has button-powered lights, two USB ports, a micro-USB port, and the girls have even tested a sanitizing UVC light on a countdown timer. …

“They made two prototypes of the tent, but the first one is now in shreds. They put it through the ringer during quality control tests, tearing it with a knife, dousing it with water, and stomping on it. … They destroyed their finished product, just to start again. It was yet another tough engineering lesson the girls would learn. …

“The $10,000 grant from the Lemelson-MIT Program could only be used on the invention itself, not traveling to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to present the award. So DIY Girls fundraised an additional $15,000 to send the team to MIT.” More here.

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Not everyone can be an inventor, but inventors can be found everywhere.

“Richard Turere, 13, doesn’t like lions. In fact, he hates them. Yet this bright Maasai boy has devised an innovative solution that’s helping the survival of these magnificent beasts — by keeping them away from humans.

“Living on the edge of Nairobi National Park, in Kenya, Turere first became responsible for herding and safeguarding his family’s cattle when he was just nine. But often, his valuable livestock would be raided by the lions roaming the park’s sweet savannah grasses, leaving him to count the losses. …

“So, at the age of 11, Turere decided it was time to find a way of protecting his family’s cows, goats and sheep from falling prey to hungry lions …

” ‘One day, when I was walking around,’ he says, ‘I discovered that the lions were scared of the moving light.’

“Turere realized that lions were afraid of venturing near the farm’s stockade when someone was walking around with a flashlight. He put his young mind to work and a few weeks later he’d come up with an innovative, simple and low-cost system to scare the predators away.

“He fitted a series of flashing LED bulbs onto poles around the livestock enclosure, facing outward. The lights were wired to a box with switches and to an old car battery powered by a solar panel.

“They were designed to flicker on and off intermittently, thus tricking the lions into believing that someone was moving around carrying a flashlight.

“And it worked. Since Turere rigged up his ‘Lion Lights,’ his family has not lost any livestock to the wild beasts, to the great delight of his father and astonishment of his neighbors.

“What’s even more impressive is that Turere devised and installed the whole system by himself, without ever receiving any training in electronics or engineering. …

Paula Kahumbu, executive director of the Kenya Land Conservation Trust …  helped him get a scholarship at Brookhouse International School, one of Kenya’s top educational institutions, where he started last April. …

” ‘One thing that’s unique about Richard is that if you give him a problem, he’ll keep working at it until he can fix it. [He] doesn’t give up; he doesn’t find things too difficult; he’s not afraid of being unable to do something and I think this is why he is such a good innovator — because he’s not worried that it might not work, he’s going to try and do it anyway.’ ”

More here. And you can catch Richard’s TED Talk here. (Yes, he got on TED Talk!)

Photo: CNN

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Stop me if I already told you this.

When I was 12 and Joanna Pousette-Dart was 9, we created a Rube Goldberg contraption one weekend, the Amazing Egg Breaking machine. (After demonstrating the ingenious mechanism in science class, I forgot about it — until the teacher pointed out that there was a rotten-egg odor emanating from his supply closet.)

Now Jamie Condliffe at Gizmodo announces that the 2.0 version has arrived. Well, he didn’t exactly say that. I’m using poetic license.

The new version, the Pancake-omatic, not only breaks eggs, using technology very similar to my own (and Joanna’s) innovation, but it also makes pancakes.

“Dreamt up by a team of four design engineers, it took over 200 hours to construct and a further 100 to test. [Joanna and I worked much faster.] The result seems worth the effort, though: from the moment a hen lays an egg sat upon the throne, its journey to the frying pan is both seamless and entertaining.

“Watch as the egg wobbles its way toward a hoist, to be cracked by a knife [WE had a knife!] and whisked up, before finally being deposited into the frying pan where it belongs. The machine will be on display in London’s Design Museum later this month.” More.

Be sure to “like” project sponsor the Happy Egg Company on Facebook, here.

 

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Connecticut seems to be doing quite a lot for entrepreneurs — even rather young ones. So thanks to an annual competition for young inventors in the state, Mallory Kievman is getting her hiccup-suppressing lollipop patented and marketed by experts.

Writing for the NY Times, Jessica Bruder quotes one of Mallory’s benefactors.

“ ‘It’s very rare, when you’re evaluating businesses, that you can envision a company or product being around 100 years from now,’ said Danny Briere, a serial entrepreneur and the founder of Startup Connecticut, which nurtures new companies, including Hiccupops, and is a regional affiliate of the Startup America Partnership. ‘Hiccupops is one of those things. It solves a very simple, basic need.’

“Mallory met Mr. Briere last spring at the Connecticut Invention Convention, an annual competition for kids. ‘I went there, and I knew it would either be a hit or a miss project,’ she said. ‘People would either like it, or they would think I was crazy.’ ” Read more.

I love reading about simple but valuable solutions to everyday challenges. Think paper clip. Think Post-it note. It takes a special kind of imagination. Nowadays, given the valuation of apps, you would think solving everyday challenges was too uncool for the inventive mind. But Hiccupops will likely bring Mallory checks in the mail long after Instagram is forgotten.

Photograph: Andrew Sullivan for the NY Times

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