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School Stories

Gates Inventors Embrace Innovation

One hundred thirty-four inventors in the Gates Invention and Innovation Program took the spotlight in March at the annual expo where they shared highs and lows from their invention journeys this year. Beginning in the fall, these middle schoolers put their innovation skills to work to solve some of life’s troubling challenges.
On the day of the expo, March 7, they were prepped and psyched to present their inventions. As judges circulated the Hamilton Gymnasium, stopping to hear elevator pitches and to ask probing questions, students stood a little straighter and spoke a little more confidently. They shared their ideas, the challenges they overcame, and most importantly, how their designs will impact others. Empathy is one of the driving factor in the program, according to Gates coach, Steve Collins.
“The whole design process starts with empathy,” he explains. “Coaches encourage the inventors to put themselves into the life of someone else so they can help solve issues that will make life easier.”

When Julie Ryan (5) noticed her great aunt became overwhelmed by too many buttons on the TV remote control, she invented The TV Remote Sleeve. It fits over the device and has windows that only show the buttons her aunt might need: power, volume, channels, etc. 

Luca Siringo (7) and his invention partner Andrew Morgan (7) put their energy toward helping hurricane and flooding victims. Their “SOS House Finder” is a highly visible and durable mat that can be placed on rooftops when the residents need assistance.

Parents, grandparents and students formed a steady stream of visitors throughout the afternoon. Pat Clark was on site to see her grandson, Oliver Wichern (6) and his invention, the Safe Step. Following a lap around the expo, she shared, “I think they all have such great imaginations. It would be hard to be a judge.”

After interviews with each inventor at the expo, judges sequestered to deliberate and select several students who were invited to give more in-depth presentations the following day. These finalists stood on the stage in the Fries Family Theater and faced the panel of judges while an audience of their peers and adults looked on. Their 10-minute presentations included details about product marketability, demonstrations and lessons learned.

Rookie judge Adam Wilson says he was not sure what to expect but was “blown away” by the inventors, their emphasis on helping others and their thought process. “The technical skill for this age group is off the charts,” he shares. “This experience will change their lives.” 

Diane Gates ‘69 Wallach was on hand as she is every year to support and encourage young inventors in the tradition of her father and the Gates program founder, Charles C. Gates ‘34. “These are my two favorite days of the year,” she says. “It’s all about problem solving and it’s so hopeful and inspirational. The lessons they are learning at a young age are a gift they’ll use for life.”

Finally, the moment arrived to give out the top prizes at an all-school assembly. Congratulations to all our inventors who had the courage, determination and imagination to complete the Gates Invention and Innovation Program this year. We’re proud of you! 

2019 Expo Winners

Grades 5/6
First Place: Julie Ryan (5), The TV Remote Sleeve
Second Place: Helen Grace Austin (6), Doggie Wings 2.0
Grades 7/8
First Place: Camille Cummings (7) and Madison Dennig (7), Ski 2 Boot
Second Place: Cayla Wolf (7) and Remy Wolkov (7), Pole Buddy
Patents Awarded: 
Millie Bjork and Lauren Frankmore


Graland Country Day School

Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.