Lemelson-MIT Awards Grants to 14 U.S. High Schools

Quan Nguyen, Troy High School InvenTeam student (2008)

Quan Nguyen, Troy High School InvenTeam student (2008)

Fourteen high school teams from across the nation will be working to solve some of the thorniest and most important problems on the planet courtesy of the Lemelson-MIT InventTeam program.

Each team will receive up to $10,000 to create and pursue yearlong invention projects that provide hands-on access to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.

Late last year, two of the teams wowed President Obama at the White House Science Fair.

Cesar Chavez High School invented a physical therapy chair for medically fragile individuals who have muscular atrophy; Oak Ridge High School developed a water purifier that provides more widespread access to clean water in rural Appalachia.

“The Cesar Chavez and Oak Ridge InvenTeams’ visit to the White House is a testament to the power of invention to change the world and help others,” said Leigh Estabrooks, the Lemelson-MIT Program’s invention education officer, who oversees the InvenTeam initiative.

InvenTeams are immersed in STEM-focused, project-based learning in both classroom and real-world settings. Teams are encouraged to work with mentors and establish partner relationships with professionals from industry, academia and others in their communities. In many cases, local institutions support InvenTeams with additional funding, materials and insights.

Each InvenTeam, composed of high school students, teachers and mentors, receives up to $10,000 in grant funding

A panel of judges composed of educators, researchers, staff and alumni from MIT, as well as former Lemelson-MIT Program Award winners and innovation industry leaders, selected the InvenTeams from a national pool of applicants based on the technical merits of their proposals for useful and unique devices.

Members of the 2010 – 2011 Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam initiative are drawn from public high schools in rural, suburban and urban communities; those schools. This year’s proposed inventions are:


§  Berlin High School (Cherry Plain, N.Y.): Alert device for hearing-impaired athletes

§  Smithtown High School West (Smithtown, N.Y.): Solar tracker for a compact, portable, affordable solar charging unit


§  Bloom High School (Chicago Heights, Ill.): Collection and recycling device for vegetable oil at restaurants

§  Eureka Springs High School (Eureka Springs, Ark.): Search and rescue cane with GPS, light source and sound mechanism

§  Green Bay Southwest High School (Green Bay, Wis.): Portable hydroelectric supply station

§  Kings High School (Kings Mills, Ohio): Portable, low-cost, hydroelectric generator for developing countries

§  Northbrook High School (Houston, Texas): Energy-efficient cooling blanket

§  Omaha North High School Magnet (Omaha, Neb.): Sustainable cooking system for developing countries

§  Pike Central High School (Petersburg, Ind.): Lightweight, portable emergency shelter


§  Carlton J. Kell High School (Marietta, Ga.): Remotely-operated oil removal watercraft

§  Suncoast High School (Riviera Beach, Fla.): Durable, efficient wave energy conversion system


§  Tehachapi High School (Tehachapi, Calif.): Low-cost, durable shoes for remote villagers in developing countries

§  West High School (Salt Lake City, Utah): Autonomous, solar-powered robot to locate unexploded weaponry

§  West Salem High School (Salem, Ore.): Pressure sensitive grip for writing utensils

In June 2011, after working through the various stages of design and prototype development throughout the school year, InvenTeams will showcase their projects at EurekaFest, a multi-day celebration of the inventive spirit, presented by the Lemelson-MIT Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus in Cambridge, Mass.

In addition to the 14 new teams, continuation grants of up to $2,000 will be awarded to select InvenTeams from the previous year interested in establishing a sustainable program for invention in their school curriculums or communities.

The Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam application for the 2011 – 2012 school year is available at http://web.mit.edu/inventeams/.

Editor’s note: This article appears in the February 2011 print edition.