'Inventathon' Promotes STEM and Business to Students

After 20 hours of effort, a team of four middle and high schoolers swept the competition (and won $500) with their invention: the AquaWheel, a 3D-printed device that uses the rolling motion of a wheel to power an internal UV light to purify water. The idea was to help people in developing countries who have to walk many miles to get water for drinking and cooking. This team was joined by hundreds of other students participating in a recent "inventathon" that took place at the Houston Community College Advanced Manufacturing Center.

For nearly a day, 204 participants from 13 Houston schools collaborated, designed and created health-related inventions, which fit this year's theme. The event was run by InventorspaceXYZ, a nonprofit that promotes STEM topics while helping students develop entrepreneurial skills. HCC supported the activities by providing its high-tech gear, including 3D printers, laser cutters and design software.

Among other inventions pursued during the event were these three:

  • A spoon with a gyroscope that stabilizes the head of the spoon so food won't spill, for helping people with Parkinson's disease or balance issues;
  • An app and phone sleeve with six dots, enabling blind people to text via Braille keyboard (rather than having to use speech-to-text all the time); and
  • A "stress-combatant" shoe that uses a nylon "backbone," padding and a rubber band to relieve tension on the ankle and surrounding ligaments to prevent hyper-extension or other strains.

"It elevates my spirits when I see all these young minds compete in this technological marathon," said Ravi Brahmbhatt, director of student innovation and entrepreneurship at HCC, in a press release. "I am so impressed with how punctual, respectful and tech savvy the students can be."

This year's top winners came from Quail Valley Middle School and Elkins High School, both in Fort Bend Independent School District.

People from local companies volunteered as mentors to help students as they worked on their projects.

During the coming year, InventorspaceXYZ said it expects to expand its inventathon event to 450 students from school districts around the greater Houston area.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.