InVenture for a younger generation
After watching a neighbor struggle with a bathroom flood, Luke Gunter wondered why something didn’t alert her when water reached a dangerously high level.
Gunter teamed up with two friends and together they invented Watto Motto, a device that detects when water is about to overflow a bathtub or sink and sounds an alarm as an alert.
They designed multiple prototypes. They interviewed potential customers and researched market needs. They followed steps used by many Georgia Tech student inventors.
But they’re not students at Tech. They’re fifth-graders at Due West Elementary in Marietta.
Due West is one of four elementary schools participating in this year’s InVenture Challenge. The program started in 2012 to expose more students to engineering and entrepreneurship.
An extension of the annual InVenture Prize for Georgia Tech undergraduates, the InVenture Challenge encourages K-12 students to identify problems and test solutions.
“It was complicated but really a lot of fun,” Gunter said. “We weren’t sure it was going to work and we were scared it would break, but when it worked we starting jumping because we really thought we were going to mess it up. “
Top teams from each of the 11 elementary, middle and high schools participating in the challenge will exhibit their work on campus April 1.
Students participating in the challenge work collaboratively and make the designs themselves, which allows learning to occur naturally, said Roxanne Moore, a research engineer with Tech’s Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC) who helps run the program.
This is the first year elementary schools participated. Nancy Ernstes, a gifted teacher at Cheatham Hill Elementary, wanted her students to take part after seeing the success her daughter’s roommate had with the 2014 InVenture Prize. The roommate, Rachel Ford, won second-place as a member of team Succette, which created smarter baby pacifiers.
The InVenture Challenge encourages students to take risks and learn from their mistakes, said Ernstes.
“It has made them understand that engineering is really at their level and they can develop ideas and push themselves in that way,“ she said.
The students tackled problems big and small.
“No one wants melted ice cream,” said Fernando Kirkconnell.
To prevent that, the fifth-grader from Cheatham Hill Elementary helped create Cold To Go, a plastic device that will keep ice cream cold and fresh.
The three-member team designed a double-walled plastic cup, filled with a mix of rubbing alcohol and water that people can freeze. Ice cream scooped into the cup and left on a kitchen counter stayed solid for more than two hours, the students said.
The container fits in car cup holders, making it perfect for to-go orders.
“We think we can market this to stores that can put their logos on it and sell it to their customers,” said Hayden Miller, another member of Cold To Go. “But for now we’re just kids.”