WEST NEWBURY — Page School’s Owen McDonald and Jackson Miller head to Michigan this month to represent northern New England at the National Invention Convention — and the West Newbury PTO is fundraising to help defray costs for this once-in-a-lifetime experience for the two fifth-graders.
The event will be held at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Michigan, from May 29-31. Open to 500 kindergarten through 12th-grade inventors and entrepreneurs across the U.S., the invitation-only convention celebrates critical thinking skills and serves as a finals competition for local, regional, state and sectional invention competitions.
The boys earned the prestigious honor by taking the Best in Grade Award at the New Hampshire Regional Young Inventors’ Convention in March for a creation they call “The Thermosleeve,” designed to improve athletic performance when it’s cold outside.
With guidance from Pentucket STEM coordinator Hilary Seager, Owen and Jackson met weekly during the school day throughout the second term to develop The Thermosleeve.
When contacted earlier this month, the boys — who both love to play football — were hesitant to reveal too many details about their invention because they are hoping to patent it.
But they did share that they were inspired by seeing basketball players wear stretchy compression sleeves. Why not make a similar option for football players, they thought?
They wanted the sleeve to be heated because football is a cold-weather sport and to be padded to protect players’ arms from injury.
Some 37 students from Donaghue and Page elementary schools began their invention journey in November by participating in the Young Inventors’ Program.
Students chose between creating a general invention, a challenge invention to design a new toy, or a Rube Goldberg machine to make a simple task complicated using a chain reaction.
Each school held its own Invention Convention showcase in early March where students presented their engineering design process and invention prototypes to judges that included scientists, engineers, teachers and administrators.
Other fifth-grade winners from Page include second-place winners Mac Cole and Logan Ford with “Magnetic Worker’s Glove,” and third-place winner Allie Gagnon with “Bungee Shot,” a challenge invention.
In sixth grade, Maddy Rhoden won with her “Handy Helper.” Chase Lasala took second with his “Super Safe Scissors,” and Jessie Aldrich and Kate Conover placed third with their “Trap Drawer.”
“The Galaxy Pet Entertainment Center 3000,” designed by fifth-graders Madelyn Grimes and Angelina Moroz, earned top honors at the Donahue School Invention Convention in Merrimac.
The winners in each grade and category qualified to attend the Northern New England Region Invention Convention in New Hampshire on March 31. In addition to a top prize for Owen and Jackson, Madelyn and Angelina landed second place in the pet care category.
For Owen, trying to figure out how to build the Thermosleeve was initially challenging.
“Making it taught me a lot of skills, like using a sewing machine, hand sewing, and speaking in front of a crowd,” he said, noting that while conducting research for the project, he learned “a lot about science and how the cold affects your muscles and joints.”
Jackson said he also learned a lot from the process, honing his public speaking skills – and even his acting skills when developing the video pitch for their invention.
“I learned it is not easy being an inventor,” he said. “I thought you could just make something and send it out into the world. But you have to research, you have to find the right materials, and you have to keep testing to improve each prototype.”
For Jackson, the best part about the project was “presenting to people and hearing that they like our invention. That makes me feel so proud of myself.”
Since 1986, the Young Inventors’ Program has annually provided more than 6,000 students in grades K-8 with project-based learning activities that encourage critical thinking, according to the program’s website.
Participating teachers are given a kit containing all materials and resources needed to implement the program.
By discovering basic principles of design through out-of-the-box problem solving, the students ultimately create unique inventions — such as The Thermosleeve.
“YIP is unique in that students present and market their idea at Invention Convention where STEM industry representatives and community members serve as role models, resources, and judges for the school and regional competitions,” the website states.
The cost for airfare, hotel and registration to attend the Henry Ford National Invention Convention is $2,000 per family, so the West Newbury PTO has established a fund to help.
To support these young inventors, visit www.wnpto.org/news-updates or send a check to West Newbury PTO, Page School, 694 Main St, West Newbury, MA 01985.