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Gates Invention & Innovation Program

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  • Tinker, create, innovate.

    A simple motto that starts a year of discovery for inventors in the Gates Invention and Innovation Program.
Through the Gates Invention and Innovation program, motivated students in Grades 5-8 have the opportunity to invent a new product and possibly earn a U.S. patent. Funded from an endowment created by Charles C. Gates ‘34, the program has been a source of pride for Graland since 1999. 

The program culminates in March at the Gates Expo, where students display and demonstrate their unique inventions. By the day's end, 10-15 finalists are chosen to make a separate presentation to the judges who evaluate inventions for functionality, creativity, marketability and clarity of communication. The products are also considered for patent viability and to date, the program has helped dozens of student inventors receive patents for their inventions.

History of the Gates Program

Established 1999

About Charles C. Gates

The Gates Invention and Innovation Program is named for alumnus Charles C. Gates ’34. He believed all children are natural inventors, unafraid to explore new ideas or take old ideas apart. His experience at Graland, during which he was encouraged to think creatively, inspired him to fund the program and competition through a generous endowment. He died in 2005, but his daughter, Diane Gates ’69 Wallach, is still closely involved as a program mentor.

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  • 23

    students have received patents for their Gates inventions.

History Timeline

Gates Coaches

Gates coaches

act as resources to guide students in the development of their innovations or inventions. The coaches help, but they do not design or build. 

  • Keep students on track with deadlines.
  • Ensure needed supplies and equipment are available.
  • Assist with budgeting.
  • Nurture and guide.
  • Conduct preliminary reviews of projects to ensure compliance with competition requirements.

List of 7 items.

  • Michelle Benge

    Lower School Science Teacher
    Brings a logical approach to problems that keeps inventors moving in the right direction. Expertly guides them toward the next step.
  • Jorge Chavez

    Co-Director Gates Invention Program
    Innovation Specialist
    Brings tech skills and is the 3D printer expert. Can source materials online in a flash.
  • Steve Collins

    Science Teacher
    Global perspective on problem-solving having lived and worked overseas in Africa as a former Peace Corps volunteer. A strong analytical yet creative thinker.
  • Andrea Crane

    Art Teacher
    Uses creativity and marketing expertise to guide inventors in creating visually appealing presentations.
  • Ben DeVoss

    Dean of Grades 5/6
    Grew up tinkering in his father's workshop and brings a counselor's mindset to nurture empathy-based ideas.
  • Andy Dodge

    Co-Director Gates Invention Program
    Science Teacher and Science Dept. Chair
    Science minded thinker who clearly sees the root of problems and challenges inventors to think of multiple solutions.
  • Ashleigh Finn

    Lead Librarian 
    Brings an eye for detail and an empathetic, positive approach. A skilled researcher and writer who helps inventors articulate their ideas.

List of 7 items.

  • Oscar Gonzalez

    Director of Equity & Inclusivity
    A lover of LEGOS and hands-on building. Guides students to walk in others' shoes and ensures inventors never lose sight of the empathic problem they're solving. 
  • David Hill

    Math Teacher
    Trained scientist, analyst, and strategist who builds authentic partnerships with students from the perspective of a parent, global citizen, and coach.
  • Elizabeth Leddy

    Innovation Specialist
    Offers a strong science background and innovative thinking, guiding budding inventors to use the design thinking process. Encourages failure as a means to success. 

  • Mitch Masters

    History Teacher
    The tool guy who teaches inventors how to get the results they want. Loves to deconstruct things and put them back together.
  • Justin Miera

    Music Teacher
    Divergent thinker who opens doors to broader possibilities. Challenges inventors to imagine ideas that are outside the box.
  • Dana Rankin

    Purchasing Manager
    Teaches sewing machine skills and runs other power tools. Uses her purchasing know-how to ensure needed supplies are on hand for inventors.
  • Martin Twarogowski

    Director of Innovative Learning
    Gives tech minded help with all things digital, including the 3D rendering tools and app development.

Gates Program in the News



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.