Several months after winning $10,000 to create an invention, 10 students from Elizabethtown High School recently traveled to Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts to showcase their months of work.
Last October, Elizabethtown High School was one of 15 schools across the country to win a $10,000 grant through the Lemelson-MIT program and the first from Kentucky to do so. The grant is given to high schools to invent technological solutions to real-world problems, according to the Lemelson-MIT website.
The students, who make up the Elizabethtown InvenTeam, created the Personal Safety System, which is comprised of a “central transmitting device” and a “sensing wrist unit,” to alert workers and employers of physiological and environmental hazards and aid in the rescue of confined space and industrial workers.
The system monitors environmental temperature, environmental oxygen concentration, worker acceleration and heart rate. When any of the measures exceed a given threshold, the alert system is updated, according to a description of the invention on the Lemelson-MIT website. The device indicates red, yellow or green with LEDs to indicate an emergency, danger or stable condition, respectively. In the event of an emergency, two bright LEDs will begin to flash, an audible signal will sound and a Bluetooth signal will be sent to an on-site manager or emergency official alerting him or her of the need to respond. The project was motivated by the 1985 Radcliff sewer lift station accident in which four people died after being overcome by methane, a lethal gas.
While at MIT, the students had to present their invention to MIT professors, inventors and business officials. The team members also were able to see presentations on other inventions from other high school teams, including a water filtration system and a device to help prevent the spread of wildfires.
InvenTeam member Emma Tompkins said she was impressed by the other inventions.
“I think all of the schools did a really good job of going in their own direction and creating something that has a positive impact and had the ability to change our world,” she said. Tompkins will attend Purdue University in the fall.
Tompkins thanked Susan Ryan, workforce readiness coordinator for Elizabethtown Independent Schools, and EHS engineering teacher Jeff Stone for helping prepare the team for the trip and mentoring them over the last several months.
“I don’t think any of us knew what to really expect and their knowledge really helped guide us in the right direction,” she said.
Elizabethtown High School can’t apply for the grant again for four years. Ryan said she hopes the high school’s experience motivates other schools to apply for a grant.
“We would love to inspire another Kentucky team to form and apply,” she said.
For the next step, Ryan said the team is in the process of securing a provisional patent for the invention. Once the provisional patent process is completed, there is a chance a full patent could be filed, which can take numerous years. There also is a chance the invention could be commercially produced for companies to use.
“We would love for it to be,” Ryan said.