On Saturday, May 4th, about 1200 elementary through high school students competed at the University of Connecticut in Connecticut Invention Convention, a state-level STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) competition that requires students to design, build, and present an invention to a group of judges. This year was the first time the competition included high school students (grades 9-12). I had mentored middle school students in this competition in the past, so being new this year at Thomaston High School, I encouraged all of my students to enter, and I ended up with one of my top physics students, Alex, as a competitor. His invention was Highway Safety and Tire Reuse, a plan to use old tires to provide cushioning on cement Jersey barriers, thereby recycling the tires and improving the safety of the barriers. Alex researched how many old tires were discarded each year in our town, Thomaston, Connecticut, and how many miles of Jersey barriers there were, then he calculated how the tires could be collected and fitted to the barriers. His research included interviews with a local tire store and with the state highway department. He also designed a way for the tires to be cut in half and attached to the Jersey barriers. For Connecticut Invention Convention, he used cement to form a miniature scale model of a Jersey barrier onto which he wired small tires to show how the invention would look. Therefore, his invention was both a tangible product and a well thought out plan.
At the Connecticut Invention Convention awards ceremony, Alex earned three major awards. He earned the Recognized Inventor Award for being in the top 25% of competitors, the Frank J. Link Family award for solving a real world problem using an engineering design process, and a scholarship award for $108,000 to the University of Hartford’s School of Engineering for overall excellence. This last award would be contingent on his applying to and being accepted by the University of Hartford. I mentored Alex for the past five months in Invention Convention, first to compete at our local competition, then to compete at the state level, and I am very proud of his accomplishments. We will see if he qualifies to advance to the national level of Invention Convention. Here are photos of Alex at the Connecticut Invention Convention: