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Program
Gates Invention & Innovation Program

Inventions Rise to New Levels of Innovation in Upgraded Lab

When the new Gates Innovation Lab opened in October, Middle School inventors got right to work exploring the space and getting acquainted with the new tools and other equipment. For students in this year’s Gates Invention and Innovation Competition, their hard work paid off at the March expo.
When the new Gates Innovation Lab opened in October, Middle School inventors got right to work exploring the space and getting acquainted with the new tools and other equipment. For students in this year’s Gates Invention and Innovation Competition, their hard work paid off at the March expo.

A Year of Discovery

Gates inventors spent the majority of the year developing and realizing their creative and practical ideas for inventions and innovations that will help someone. Prior to the grand opening of the new lab, inventors in Grades 5/6 rotated through workshops on Developmental Design, Empathy and the 3D printer program. They also got an introduction to sewing and made personalized canvas storage bags. By November, they eagerly dove into the lab and put their brains to work identifying a problem to solve. Sixth graders Gus Albright and Hudson Park, for example, decided to help athletes and weight lifters with a solution to slippery hand weights that can cause foot injuries if dropped.

With a problem in mind, students moved on to the research step. What products currently on the market address the identified problem? Scouring the internet, Maria Storch and her partner Alex Geldzahler, both fifth graders, could not find anything like their idea for an all-in-one baker’s helper to dispense dry ingredients. “There are a lot of canisters and measuring cups and some products for liquid ingredients, but nothing like our idea,” Maria explains.

Finally, inventors began experimenting with materials and designs. Gates coach Dana Rankin is in charge of supplies; she’s tasked with sourcing whatever parts and pieces the inventors need to create their prototypes. Along the way, a graveyard of random, rejected items -- everything from velcro tape to shower heads to a box of assorted springs -- testifies to the “try and fail and try again” process. When Elena Abarca mismeasured for her product, The Meal Preserver, she had to reorder a smaller size diameter PVC pipe. The bigger pipe lolled on the Island of Misfit Supplies and waited for another inventor to see its potential.

Try, fail, try again. Seventh grader David Gebremedhin experimented with the 3D printer to make a clamp that helps trumpeters with their instruments. His StayTite Mouthpiece has keeps the mouthpiece from detaching. In the end, he used a product called Instamorph to mold the clamp to the perfect shape.

The invention process involved more than hands-on tinkering. Inventors logged their journeys, noting their ideas, materials used, challenges and so forth. Fifth graders Charlotte Smith and Amelia Birner were detailed - and honest - in their record of creating The Blizzard Wizard, a snow shovel with an attached salt spreader: “We encountered many problems on the road to success. One of them was the shovel. It took two classes to build because the instructions were horrible and it didn't come with the right nuts and bolts, but we used some from the Gates shelf and it worked.”

The invention phase eventually morphed into the presentation phase. For the expo, each inventor or team must have a working prototype and a trade show-style presentation. Students developed stylized logos for their inventions and designed visually appealing, informational displays. They spent the last, frenzied days before the expo polishing their “elevator pitches” and preparing to answer deeper questions from the competition judges. Judges determine the finalists and ultimately the winners of the contest and also single out inventions that could pursue a U.S. patent. This year, one pair of inventors received their patent certificates and another began their patent journey after winning third place in the 2017 competition.

Finally, expo day arrived on March 9 and inventors spent two hours in front of parents, peers and judges demonstrating their products over and over. Several finalists were invited back the next day for a more in-depth presentation for the panel of judges. At an all-school assembly later that day, the winners were revealed, resulting in cheers and heartfelt hugs. Congratulations to all the inventors who poured heart, soul and imagination into this year’s competition!

Grades 5/6
First: Michael Ryan, Safety Syringe
Second: Mailin Thompson, Buckle in a Snap
Third: Alex Geldzahler and Maria Storch, Baker’s Buddy (patent nod)

Grades 7/8
First: Sophia Birner and Maria Romo-Nichols, Brush Better
Second: Josiah Davis and Cameron Swaney, Star Life Slide
Third: Elena Abarca, Meal Preserver

 

 

Our Newest Patent Holders

Congratulations to inventors Matthew Romo-Nichols and Chase Street, Class of 2014, who received their patent certificates at the March assembly. The two were eighth graders when they invented Lax ‘Em, an invention to protect the head of a lacrosse stick.



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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.