A Personal Environmental Warning System and Solar Power Generating Blinds Are Among the Winning Entries in Smithsonian-Cricket Media’s 6th Annual Spark!Lab Invent It Challenge

More Than 190 Students and Teams Submitted Innovative Solutions to Global Environmental Issues; Other Winning Entries from Around the World Included an Improved Water Filtration Device, a Fluoride Filter and a Water Collection/ Filtration Device that Also Fuels Home Heating Systems


Washington, D.C., May 15, 2017 – The environment is under assault, but if the highly original concepts and inventions proposed by students around the globe as part of the 6th Annual Spark!Lab Invent It Challenge are any indicator, the earth is in innovative hands. Cricket Media, in partnership with the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation , is pleased to announce the winners of this year’s annual challenge, which received more than 190 entries from across the U.S., as well as Mexico, Pakistan and more.


The 6th Annual Spark!Lab Invent It Challenge asked students ages 5-21 to think about a real-world environmental issue such as water scarcity, climate change, air or water pollution, endangered species and natural resource loss and devise a planet-friendly solution. For their entries, students were required to follow seven key steps in the invention process, including identifying a problem, conducting research, sketching their ideas, building a prototype, testing the product, refining it, and marketing it to potential users. The eight winners – four teams and four individuals – and 20 honorable mentions were evaluated by a panel of judges from the Smithsonian and Cricket Media.


“There is so much pollution in the world, and it hurts animals, and it also hurts us,” says Tennessee-based Will. The 6-year-old created “BB8,” a spherical Star Wars™-style robot created to patrol the vast ocean waters and warn people of the dangers of polluting. He adds, “Because a lot of people like Star Wars, they might say, ‘Oh, it’s BB8. Let me follow what he says!’ And then they’ll stop polluting.”


Hamsini, age 10, from Virginia captured the award in the 8-10 Year-Old Category with the PEQualM (Personal Environmental Quality Motor). Addressing the issues of air pollution and its harmful effects on the world population, the PEQualM is meant to be a wearable mobile air sensor, providing a means to access immediate, actionable information about airborne pollutants.


BLITS, created by 11-year-old Arushi from New Jersey, are an inventive new product for homes and offices that tackles the hot-button issue of renewable energy, while addressing the great expenses sometimes associated with its utilization. Her innovative energy-generating blinds combine solar panel technology with inexpensive materials and seek to make solar power a more feasible alternative for people around the world. She says, “Blinds face the sun every day, and the solar panels on the BLITS can give enough power to light an entire room with just one window…Even a child as young as eight years old can install them.”


Winner of the 14+ age category last year with his invention, “Magic Sand: A Novel Graphene Oxide-Based Water Filtration System,” the 15 year-old Ankush built on his research which addresses the problem of a limited clean water supply. This year, his award-winning entry focused on the second stage of filtration, making and using graphene oxide and coating it on sand. Ankush used chitin, which is present in animal shells, to bond the graphene oxide to the sand, which can then effectively remove salt and colorants from water (even ocean water levels of salt), as well as metals from water. As he says, “1 in 3 people in the world do not have access to clean water and over 200 children die due to water-cleanliness related issues every hour. These are staggering statistics and we need innovation and new materials to solve this problem.”


This year, the ePals Choice Award winner, which received more than 218,000 online votes, is “Animal Rescue: A Colombian Adventure” created by a team of 11 and 12 year olds from Medellín, Colombia: Simón C (12), Emilio M (11), Andrés H (11), Simón V (11) and Tomás E (12). Addressing the problem of environmental sustainability, with a particular focus on protecting biodiversity, Animal Rescue is an augmented reality app that provides a means for people to learn more about the importance of biodiversity and how their actions can help to preserve it in Colombia.


“Looking at the hundreds of innovative entries from this year’s Invent It Challenge, it’s easy to feel confident in the future of our planet,” said Stephanie Sharis, CEO of Cricket Media. “From numerous water filtration devices to a novel Pokemon Go-style game that addresses environmental sustainability, we’ve been astounded by the thoughtful creativity and scientific inquiry on display.”


“The submissions we received this year were truly impressive,” said Arthur Daemmrich, director of the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. “Creative problem solving is imperative to finding solutions to the global challenges we face today, and we applaud the thoughtful and diverse work of each young inventor for providing inspiration and optimism for future generations of like-minded innovators.”


Complete List of Individual Winners, By Age:

  • Ages 5-7: BB8 – Will E. (6), Kingsport, TN
  • Ages 8-10: PEQualM (Personal Environmental Quality Motor) – Hamsini (10), Vienna, VA
  • Ages 11-13: BLITS – Arushi (11), Mt. Laurel, NJ
  • Ages 14-18: Graphene Oxide-Based Water Filtration System – Ankush (15), Newburgh, IN 


Complete List of Team Winners, By Age:

  • Team Ages 5-7: The Gwater Bottle Gutter (Red Mill Elementary School, Virginia Beach, VA)
  • Team Ages 8-10: Fluoride Filter (Seawell Elementary School, Chapel Hill, NC)
  • Team Ages 11-13: Animal Rescue – A Colombian Adventure (Colegio Montessori Medellín, Medellín, Colombia)
  • Team Ages 14+: YEDA water collection/filtration (Guadalajara, Mexico)


Videos and other details of the top winning inventions and the 20 honorable mentions are available here.


Up to three (3) winners are eligible to receive an official U.S. patent application provided by the law firm Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP. “We are pleased to assist these young inventors and entrepreneurs of tomorrow with their first patent filing,” said Neil Jones, a lead partner in the Nelson Mullins patent group.


Additional age-specific prizes available to the Winners include, a selection of engaging books from the Smithsonian, LEGO® sets, art supplies and the “Spark!Lab Inventor’s Studio” from Faber Castell, and for Honorable Mentions, one-year digital subscriptions to any Cricket Media magazine.



Cricket Media, Inc. is an education media company that provides award-winning content on a safe and secure learning network for children, families, and teachers across the world. Cricket Media’s 11 popular media brands for toddlers to teens include Babybug®, Ladybug®, Cricket® and Cobblestone™. The Company’s innovative web-based K12 tools for school and home include the ePals community and virtual classroom for global collaboration as well as In2Books®, a Common Core eMentoring program that builds reading, writing and critical thinking skills. Cricket Media serves millions of teachers, students and parents in over 200 countries and territories through its platform and NeuPals, its joint venture with China’s leading IT services company Neusoft. Cricket Media also licenses its content and platform to top publishing and educational companies worldwide. For more information, please visit http://cmcorp.wpengine.com.


Spark!Lab is a hands-on invention activity space operated by the Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and  Innovation at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The Lemelson Center engages, educates, and empowers the public to participate in technological, economic, and social change. Through historical research, educational initiatives, exhibitions, and public programming the Center advances new perspectives on invention and innovation and fosters interactions between the public and inventors.


Nelson Mullins is an AmLaw 100 full-service national law firm with offices from coast to coast. The firm’s Intellectual Property group has assisted a broad spectrum of clients, from Fortune 100 companies to individual inventors, such as the winners of the Annual Spark! Lab Invent It Challenge, to obtain protection for their inventions, trademarks, and copyrights and to enforce and defend those rights in courts throughout the country.


Cricket Media

Michael Krause/Foundry Communications


(212) 586-7967

Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation

Laura Havel, Communications Specialist


(202) 633-3312

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLC

Neil Jones


(864) 250-2260