Keep reading for a look into what it’s like growing up in a family that thinks outside the box.
“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.”