This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing to use this website, you consent to our use of these cookies.
Class Notes and Alumni News

A Family of Inventors

By Mimi McMann, Associate Director of Communications
The four Romo-Nichols siblings, three Graland graduates and one current student, have likely set some kind of record with their family’s participation in the Gates Invention and Innovation Program. And not just because each of them competed every year in Middle School, which itself is exceptional, but also by earning top awards and even a United States patent. 
Each of the Romo-Nichols children says the Gates program has had a profound impact on their thinking skills and how they look at problem-solving. It has also given them confidence, public speaking experience and a place in their family of inventors. Keep reading for a look into what it’s like growing up in a family that thinks outside the box.


Matt ‘14, Patent Owner 
Matt is both the oldest and the only sibling to successfully patent one of his inventions. As a fifth-grader, he won first place for developing a website that connects people who have winter clothing to swap. By graduation, he and his invention partner, Chase Street ‘14, were on their way to owning a patent for Lax ‘Em, a lacrosse stick accessory that extends the life of the head, another first-place invention. 

 Currently a sophomore in college, Matt is studying economics and business, giving him ample opportunity to recall lessons learned during the invention journey and to reference the entrepreneurship skills he developed through the Gates program. 

 “The problem-solving and collaboration aspects have been valuable to me. Gates provided an environment to fail over and over so ultimately you can succeed. The coaches were always available to answer questions, but they never made decisions for me. That part is important because it allows kids to learn from their successes and failures.” 


Alec ’16, Practical Inventor
Alec is most proud of not quitting the Gates program after what he calls “unremarkable”  results in his first two years of middle school. He finished on a brighter note, winning second place for Thermo-Break in 2015, a “rebreakable” karate board, and third place in eighth grade with a urinal attachment that prevents splash back.

 “I learned that trying to force creativity is hard to do,” he said. “For my eighth-grade invention, I got the green light a month after everyone else because I waited for an idea I really liked. Being patient during the creative thinking part was the key for me.”

 Now a high school senior, Alec recognizes that growing up in a dynamic, innovative family is both inspiring and intimidating. “For me, there’s a lot of pressure to succeed,” he admitted. “My siblings are all doing great stuff in all aspects of their lives. I manage the pressure by focusing on what I’m interested in and putting my full attention on doing my best.” 


Maria ‘18, Inventor of Brush Better and Code Style 

Like Alec, Maria didn’t have much success in her first two years in Gates but her perseverance paid off. As a seventh-grader with partner Sophia Birner ‘18, she invented a toothbrush for people who wear braces. In eighth grade, she and Elle Morris ‘18 designed a website that curates dress-code approved clothing from brand-name retailers. Both inventions won first place but were not without challenges.

 “Looking back, I would have made the toothbrush sturdier,” Maria reflected. “We used the 3-D printer and finally got the mechanism to work only two days before the competition after 11 prototypes. Then, the night before the competition I stepped on the toothbrush and it broke. I had to make a new one the morning of the expo.” 


Nate, Budding Inventor 
A sixth-grader, Nate is in his second year competing in the Gates program and he is currently deep into the process of inventing an accessory for artist’s brushes with partners Josh Wolff (6) and Hugh Brophy (6).

“The hardest part is coming up with ideas,” he shared. “There are obstacles like working with a partner to decide on an idea and getting the idea approved. It takes a while to find something no one has done before.”

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 1927, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.