Why Didn't I Think of That?


It's tough out there for young kids. Education is expensive and jobs are getting fewer and far between. One program hopes to give high school students the tools they need to succeed in workforce and at the same excel in using their creative and problem-solving skills. It's the the InvenTeam initiative, created by the Lemelson-MIT Program. Teams of high school students nationwide are granted up to $10,000 to invent a practical solution to a real-world problem. Throughout the year, the team members meet with each other and the potential users of their invention. And then apply what they know from science, technology, engineering, and math to take their idea to the prototype stage.

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This year’s four presenting teams are showcasing their innovations this weekend at MIT for Eurkeafest. Each one could help thousands of people live better lives or keep others safe from harm. They're each remarkably inventive and will have you wondering why someone didn't think of that before. Here are the inventions and the teams behind them:

MagWrite. Bishop Kelly InvenTeam (Boise, ID)

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The MagWrite is a portable writing assistive device designed to help the more than 10 million Americans who have difficult writing because they suffer from tremors associated with injury, disease or aging. The MagWrite uses magnetic damping technology to lessen the effects of tremors, allowing people to write or draw more legibly.

Self-Balancing Recumbent Trike. Lynden High School (Lynden, WA)

Students at Lynden High School wanted to create technology that would give people like 9th-grader Kalyz Lara, who was born with spina bifida, more options for physical activities. The trike is especially useful to people with balance limitations because it is designed to restrict leaning that can lead to tipping over. The automatic lean-restricting system is controlled by pressure switches that turn on and off solenoids to pump air into one side of the trike and let air out of the other.

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Offshore Rip Current Alert System. Williamston High School (Williamston, MI)

When you think of rip currents, you don't automatically think of Michigan. But the Great Lakes are known for their strong currents and quickly changing weather conditions. This invention employs a set of inexpensive buoys with sensors that measure the velocity of water currents. Fabricated from structural aluminum framing and housing, the bouys will be powered by four solar panels. When currents are deemed unsafe by the onboard computer, the buoy will activate a warning device in the form of a blinking light and/or audible alarm to alert swimmers.

Ultraviolet Water Filtration and Storage Device. Eastern Regional High School (Vorhees, NJ)

Every day, 884 million people, clean water is a luxury. Instead they must drink dangerous and polluted water that causes illness and eventually death for more than one million children every year. A water filtration and storage device could save many lives. It has three major components: physical filtration, ultraviolet disinfection and longterm storage. It's designed to fit onto a standard open-top 55-gallon drum for easy implementation.

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