To ensure a memorable trip to one of the nation’s most prestigious technology colleges for Drew Charter School’s InvenTeam, it’s going to take more than brains, collaboration and innovation–it’s also going to take about 1,000 miles in travel and more than $12,000 in expenses.
For more than a year, Drew Charter’s engineering students have worked toward attending EurekaFest, a showcase of 15 high school-made inventions from around the country. The festival takes place annually at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass.
The application to attend EurekaFest begins with an application for the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam grant, which awards 15 teams in the United States $10,000 to invent “a patentable solution to a community problem.”
In 2016, Drew Charter was the only school in Georgia awarded the grant. Since spring 2016, the team—made up of 15 juniors and seniors, one teacher and one community volunteer—has been working on an alarm system to prevent hot car deaths.
“It’s a three-tier alarm system—a text message alert to the owner, a vicinity alarm to notify people around the car and a signal to the police with GPS coordinates to let them know the location,” said Naomi Ray, an InvenTeam member.
According to team member Krystina Bennett, the team selected such an invention because of the Justin Ross Harris trial, which took place in the aftermath of the hot-car death of 22-month-old Cooper Harris. She said the team also considered a robotic crossing guard and a device to prevent break-ins.
Volunteer and Drew Charter parent Eric Ayers said the project afforded him an opportunity to help develop future engineers.
“I want to see more students go into technical fields,” Ayers said. “We need new people coming in. We need people from all backgrounds coming in. We need people with differing life experiences to come in and contribute.”
Ayers said he has been very impressed with the team’s practice presentations—a “sell”—and that he knows the team will represent their invention well at MIT. He urged many members of the InvenTeam to consider a career in technology because of their aptitude in the field.
Ray and Bennett said other parents have congratulated the team’s efforts—which have included staying after school to work on the project, writing blogs on the team’s progress and coming in on weekends. The team has also received a letter of congratulations from Sen. Johnny Isakson.
While the invention is in its final stages, financial planning for the trip— to cover expenses such as shipping materials, transporting students and ensuring a memorable experience—is a different story.
“We still have to raise another $12,000 at a minimum. The fundraising is a challenge,” said teacher Beth White, who supervises the InvenTeam at Drew Charter. “We’ve had our nose to the grindstone in getting our invention functioning, and here we are: it’s time to start booking flights, it’s time to start securing lodging.”
Still, White said it is exciting to be awarded InvenTeam status and that every achievement has been completely deserved and sourced by students. She said the classroom runs the same way a corporation would, with communication leads, social media managers and technology heads.
“They’ve developed their engineering and design skill set so that MIT knew we could make [this invention] happen,” White said. “Making it happen is a huge undertaking.”
The $12,000 figure should not suggest the team hasn’t been trying.
Bennett said the team sells snacks after school, sells past inventions, sends letters to parents and guardians, writes local businesses and engages in social media campaigns in an effort to raise money for the trip. As of April 11, the team raised more than $4,800 with donations ranging as high as $250.
Bennett and Ray called the trip a great opportunity to travel outside of Atlanta, visit world-class colleges and represent engineering students in Georgia.
“After this experience, I may look into going to school [in Boston], especially because I want to be an engineer,” Bennett said.
“We want to take a few college tours while we’re up there,” said Ray.
For White, the entire InvenTeam experience has given students an opportunity to see how real-world businesses develop world-changing products.
“In the real world, there aren’t 15 people sitting in the same room doing the same thing,” White said. “There are people who specialize, you get a specialized skill set and work with people who compliment that skill set. This classroom runs exactly like industry. Not to mention, these students have the opportunity to save lives.”
To donate to Drew Charter’s InvenTeam and help them get to MIT by June, visit their GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/drew-design-teams-inventeams-trip-2v5kk3g?utm_source=internal&utm_medium=email&utm_content=campaign_link_t&utm_campaign=welcome.
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