This past fall, the lives of 23 teenage girls forever changed. High school students in Jessica Horton’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) class at the Girls Leadership Academy of Arizona (GLAAZ) were selected from a nationwide pool of candidates to receive the 2013 Lemelson-MIT Program InvenTeam grant. This money enables them to develop the prototype for a unique drowning prevention device – the “WataWescue.”
Competition was keen among applicants, but the GLAAZ InvenTeam’s proposal for an inflatable water-safety shirt, the “WataWescue,” surfaced as one with considerable inventive potential. The team received $7,500 to create, test and perfect their invention throughout the spring. Then, ten of the GLAAZ students – the core development team – will travel to the 2013 EurekaFest, which is held at MIT, to showcase their working prototype to other high school teams, college students and professors representing various universities from around the nation.
The prototype continues to evolve through testing, but includes a lightweight T-shirt for toddlers that automatically inflates if the child falls in the water. It also has an alarm to alert parents. The students are separated into various teams to finalize each of the prototype’s components including Alarm Research, Garment Construction, Inner Tube Design, Logo Design, Communications and Public Relations, Trigger and Mechanics and Finances. Science, engineering, health and other professionals within the Phoenix community are advising the students and facilitating the testing of the final prototype.
The InvenTeam project is just one example of how GLAAZ’s academic mission connects the work of the school to community life. Drowning prevention in Phoenix is significant to the students, some of whose families have been impacted by near-drownings. Most of the GLAAZ InvenTeam students have never traveled on a plane, out of state, or even as far away as Flagstaff, so, being part of this opportunity will truly be life changing. The school’s mission affords all students additional opportunities to participate in academic experiences that otherwise would be cost prohibitive, including free college courses beginning freshman year.
While the grant paid accommodation costs for six girls to attend the 2013 EurekaFest, GLAAZ’s InvenTeam raised the money for transportation to and from Boston, as well as lodging, for four additional girls (the maximum number of team members allowed). The school is grateful for an anonymous donor whose generous contribution will open minds and continue to create future opportunities for each young woman.
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