The 2016 Spark!Lab Invent It Challenge is off and running. This year, kids ages 5 to 21 need to identify a real-world health problem and come up with a solution to the problem. Each entry must follow the seven step invention process spelled out by our partner, the Smithsonian’s Spark!Lab. This week we have the chance to speak with one of our entrants.
Meet 10-year-old Allie from South Dakota
Cricket Media: How did you get the idea for your invention?
Allie: A few weeks before I got the idea, I went sledding with my family. It was a really warm day, but my gloves were wet. This caused my fingers to get really cold, and I got frostbite. I didn’t even realize that it was happening, and now that I have had frostbite, it means that I am considered high risk to get it again too, so how can I stop it from happening? That is when I came up for the idea of the frost stopper. A wearable frost bite warning system for people who spend time outside in cold weather.
Cricket Media: Who do you think your invention will benefit?
Allie: I made it for anyone who dislikes getting frostbite, or has already gotten it and is also considered high risk. I also made it mostly for kids like me. I was afraid to play outside because I didn’t know if I was going to get frostbite again. It’s not fun to watch everyone else play in the snow while you are sitting inside. I wanted to give myself and other people a way to not worry and to play again. Plus I am a kid and designed the system with kids in mind. You have to think and do things a bit differently than if you design for a grown up. No one I had found had ever looked at this problem from a kid’s perspective before.
Cricket Media: What was the most difficult part of creating your invention?
Allie: I think that writing and configuring the programming for Arduino for my invention was the hardest part because it is a whole new thing I had to learn how to do in order to make my invention. There are so many things that could go wrong all at the same time. There are just a lot of aspects to it that I am not used to keeping track of. I am still working on it. I started using Arduino in December when I got one for Christmas so I had only done a few small projects on it before I jumped into my invention project. It was not easy, like learning a whole new language.
Cricket Media: What was your favorite step in the invention process so far?
Allie: I like doing the hardware and all of the soldering, and hooking up the wires, it is probably my favorite part of all these kinds of projects.
Cricket Media: Did your invention work the first time you tried it or did you need to go back to the drawing board?
Allie: Well I needed to get new ideas often, because I would find something that would not work so I would tweak it and do it again, then maybe that would not work so I would do it again, and I would repeat this process until it finally works out. I wired things wrong once and almost burned my finger, I hooked up a sensor backwards. One problem I had to face was I found out that my dad purchased the wrong sensors for my project, so I had to figure out how to use the ones he bought instead of the one I had researched and planned for. This meant I had to change my Arduino code again! It was a long process.
Cricket Media: How did you find out about the Invent It Challenge?
Allie: At my school last year, my teacher would find different competitions that we could do. It was not required that we enter, but she had us start and brainstorm and follow the steps of the Spark Lab Invent-it Challenge and I was really excited because I already loved to invent things.
Cricket Media: Have you ever entered the contest before?
Allie: Yes, I entered last year with my friend from class, Chase. We got an honorable mention with our invention, the “Goal-rilla Soccer Helper”. You can see our project on the winner’s page from last year’s challenge.
Cricket Media: What would you like to be when you grow up?
Allie: First I will get my doctorate degree in engineering. After, I would like to either work as a NASA engineer, or work on my own inventions, then sell them for a couple million dollars. Then I will become a patent lawyer and when I retire, a librarian.
Cricket Media: What are your favorite activities outside of school?
Allie: I play soccer and tennis. I go to activities at Church. I look forward to the science competitions at school and in my community, and I participate on an awesome LEGO League Team. My favorite website is DIY.org which is an awesome kid’s online community where you can do awesome projects!