You are never too old or too young to innovate. Six girls, 13 years old and under, registered for a national challenge to invent a biomedical device that would help heal or improve the human body. Their creation not only won the FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award, it was also awarded a patent. Watch the ABC News profile on YouTube.
Photo from ABCNEWS.go.com, courtesy Flying Monkeys
The girls call themselves “The Flying Monkeys” and meet once a week in a tree. Yes, in a tree! The saga began for the young team of six when they learned about a three-year old who was born without fingers on her right hand. The girls were driven to invent something that would empower the young child to write and draw. After many sketches, drawings and models, the girls came up with the BOB-1, a prosthetic hand device made from plastic, velcro and foam. The device simply slips onto the hand and enables writing and drawing.
After winning the national award and seeing how the device worked on the tiny hand, The Flying Monkeys improved the prosthetic and named the newer version BOB-1.2.
We love hearing about how young students are becoming engaged with science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Do you have a similar story about something you have created? Share a video with us and we might post it to America Invents!
Millions of people around the world can’t afford electric bulbs and live in homes that lack windows, resulting in lives spent mostly in darkness. However, thanks to a program called Liter of Light, many families in the Philippines will be able to afford light in their homes by a new innovation — old soda bottles now converted to solar bulbs.
A solar bulb is created by adding water and bleach into the plastic bottle and inserting the bottle into the roof through a custom-cut hole. The sunlight goes through the bottle and the added water refracts it, creating 55-60 watts of clear light in the home. The bleach in the bottle is used to keep the water clean of algae. The device can be built and installed in less than an hour and lasts for about five years. The idea is inexpensive for the financially-disadvantaged residents. It’s a practical combination of simple technology and reuse of disposed soda bottles.
Are you creating something unique and useful? We want to know about it. Share a video of what you are making with us here.
In July of 2007 Austin Whitney became paralyzed from the waist down due to a car crash. On May 7 of this year, he walked across the stage at his college graduation thanks to the Berkley Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory (also make the eLegs robotic exoskeleton).
Known as the Austin in honor of its first test pilot, the exoskeleton system is built with many off-the-shelf parts that give the user limited range of motions; i.e., standing, walking forward, stoping and sitting. Professor Homayooon Kazerooni, founder of Berkley Bionics, believes this invention will be game-changing, as it will allow millions of people who are mobility-limited to be both mobile and more independent through the accessible technology.
How the Austin Works There are two motors on the back of the Austin that are similar to the motor that drives a Tesla electric car. For instance, on the day of his graduation, young Whitney lifted himself out of his wheelchair and into the Austin. The device’s motors propelled him forward by driving his hip joint, transferring the energy from the machine to Whitney. The whole process is very tiring for the user, and additionally, being a paraplegic lowers one’s stamina, but with patience and continued use, the apparatus will help improve these individual’s overall health – as well as their independence.
Kazerooni and his team continue to improve the Austin in hopes that it will soon be an inexpensive exoskeleton system for everyday personal use for the patients who will find this device to be life-changing. Whitney, having just graduated from college, is helping in this process, acting as a human lab rat.
Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, offers a praise of individuality in his “Message To The Future” People need room to conduct their own experiments, learn from failures, and grow from personal experiences. The future will face new challenges including an increase in the population, the need to find jobs for more people, and specialization of the workforce. These changes best occur when people have knowledge of the sciences and have the confidence to act on their vision for changing the world around them, without fear of being punished for their mistakes.
Much of this growth can take place in institutes of higher learning. Students at today’s universities tend to be overwhelmed with their workload, from essays, projects, and various assignments. They very rarely have the time to experiment with learning new techniques and new ideas. I was fortunate enough at my school, Babson College, to be involved in a program that allowed for experimenting with various business ideas in a comfortable setting. Students were clumped together in groups of 30 and given a $3,000 stipend to start a business. There was plenty of time given to brainstorm potential business ideas as well as planning out a strategy for implementation. The result was that I was able to experiment with various sales and marketing techniques, because the professors were evaluating us based on our work and ideas and not on results.
Colleges would do well for their students to incorporate more hands-on simulations of real life projects like business startups (for business students) and perhaps laboratory projects (for science students) that have fewer guidelines and leave the work up to the students to test out different techniques and develop their own style. Professors could guide students throughout their projects by offering their thoughts and giving feedback on students’ work. This way students’ individuality can be preserved and education can return to its student-centric philosophy.
How important do you think it is for students to learn about their field of interest on their own in a comfortable setting?
There is increasing importance being placed on green innovation. Nowadays when you walk into a Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target, Walmart or other home improvement or general shopping store, you are hit with 1,001 ways you can save on energy, recycle, or other methods to become more green. But, the need to “go green” isn’t just within our homes. Green innovation is becoming a major focus for companies of all sizes. For example, the transportation industry is continually looking into new travel routes and alternative forms of fuel that will enable to not only reduce cost but also reduce their carbon footprint. While you could probably rattle off a list of some immediate actions you could take within your office to go more green, there are more companies coming together to collaborate on other effective green innovations.
Several major corporations have begun developing communities and collaborating to advance environmentally friendly innovations. Two main groups have formed over the past couple years: Eco-Patent Commons and Green Xchange. Eco-Patent Commons is a collective consisting of IBM, Nokia, Pittney Bowes, Sony and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. According to a New York Times article, their mission is simple: “Pledge environmental patents to the commons, and anyone can use them – for free.” Green Xchange is comprised of Creative Commons, Nike and Best Buy but takes a bit of a different angle. Companies that contribute green patents to the Xchange have the option of charging a fixed annual licensing fee and can also instate restrictive licensing to keep competitors away. Innovations created by one of these companies may have benefits for another in the group that they can license and roll out within their organization. One example given in the New York Times article was that of Nike’s air-bag patent for cushioning shoes:
Nike’s air-bag patent for cushioning shoes is crucial to its core shoe business, but may have environmental benefits in other industries — perhaps in prolonging the useful life of tires. Green Xchange could enable Nike to license the air-bag technology selectively to noncompeting companies.
In fact, the need to “go green” and move forward green innovations is no longer an option for businesses, it is an imperative, according to Mark Atkins, CEO of Invention Machine, a Boston-based firm that helps companies design predictable and sustainable innovative processes. To see why Mark thinks it is imperative for businesses to become more environmentally friendly, check out the below interview.
If you can’t see this video, you can also catch it on YouTube.
Has your company started moving towards being more environmentally friendly? In what ways is your company investing in green innovation? Do you even think they should be investing in something like green innovation?
We have designed the program to encourage sharing of our online materials for personal use and for educational use. Some content available for download with a Creative Commons license.
Join the Mailing List
Be the first to be notified as interviews are posted, go behind the scenes of the interviews and stay up-to-date with breaking news.