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Program
Gates Invention & Innovation Program

Gates Inventor Sells Award-winning Product

When Nick Bain ‘12 entered the Gates Invention Competition four years ago as a seventh grader, he had no idea how the program would change his adolescence, and maybe change his life.
When Nick Bain ‘12 entered the Gates Invention Competition four years ago as a seventh grader, he had no idea how the program would change his adolescence, and maybe change his life.

A Winning Idea
It all started so simply. Passing by and using light switches every day, Nick thought those utilitarian plastic panels surrounding the switch ought to have more purpose. He considered adding hooks, a magnetic surface and clips but finally realized the perfect use for a light switch cover is actually as a small whiteboard.
 
Through the Gates Invention program he developed his idea for an upgraded panel with a dry erase surface so people could leave messages or reminders in this high-traffic spot. The prototype, called Switch Port, won first prize from the team of judges.
 
“A light switch you can write on looks the same as the light switch you already have when it's not in use, but when you write a reminder or a message on it, it's impossible to miss,” Nick says. “I've also found that it's really nice to be able to write an idea that comes to you on your nearest light switch.”
 
His success meant people wanted to know, “When can I buy the Switch Port?”


Research and Development
“Gates is designed really well because it's focused on just building something and getting it to work, but not worrying about making it perfect,” Nick says. “After Gates, the $500 award funded ‘research and development’ so I could work on making the product great. I actually just went to Home Depot and got a massive sheet of whiteboard and started experimenting.  The next 20 or 30 prototypes all came from that piece of board.”
 
Nick didn’t hesitate to reach out for help in perfecting his product. The Young Americans Bank gave him a lot of advice and allowed him to sell prototypes at a local marketplace where he could get constructive feedback.  He also spent six months in a startup incubator at Harvard where he consulted with entrepreneurs, investors, lawyers and branding agencies and had access to a team of advisors from Google, Harvard, Facebook and other companies. Now a student at Colorado Academy, he spent the past two years using the Innovation Lab to create more prototypes. In all, he has logged more than 1,000 hours on research and development.

Realizing a Dream
Today, he is launching a Kickstarter campaign to sell Switch Port to the public. The Kickstarter platform is a method of buying a product that hasn't been mass produced yet. As a result, the manufacturing process is tailored to provide the product to the individuals who have actually already bought it.  
 
“I wanted it to launch on Kickstarter and not through retail stores because I think it's important, especially at first, to be as closely connected as possible with the people who are using your product,” Nick explains. If he meets his goal ($750 in 30 days), he will break a Kickstarter record for the youngest person to successfully launch a new product through the platform.
 
Without hesitation, Nick credits Graland’s Gates program and the support of the Graland community for his success as an inventor. As other hopeful inventors in the Gates program get started on their ideas, Nick’s advice is to not settle for an invention concept that you think is “pretty good.”
 
“Make something you yourself want,” he says. “A good rule is: The more you want to use a product in your own life, the better it will be. One of the best ways to make something better is just to listen to other people. Also you have to care a lot. It's the only way I've found to make stuff that's good.”
 
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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.