A rock climbing device that could stop someone from plummeting off the side of a cliff. A blanket that blocks life-draining radiation. A dog jacket to shield pooches from nerve-racking fireworks.
These were just a few of the creative and innovative ideas that took home prizes from this year's Inventerprise contest. The contest held by Bend Research challenged High Desert students to create an invention that would combat their greatest fears.
Students entered 813 projects. More than 120 students won honorable mentions and prizes. Winners and honorable mentions at the elementary and middle school levels will receive T-shirts and are being invited to Bend Research's science night later this month. Winners of the top prize at the middle school level got to choose between an iPod, an e-reader, a digital camera, a mountain bike or a season ski pass to Mt. Bachelor.
The winner at the high school level received $1,000, while second-place prize winners won $500 each.
Meet the winners: Kingston Steele
Kingston, 18, is a Madras High senior. Originally from Los Angeles, Kingston moved to Madras two years ago. And as part of the High Desert lifestyle, he's picked up the sport of rock climbing.
“As a rock climber, one of the biggest fears is that the gear will fail, or a belayer won't do their job,” Kingston said. “A lot could go wrong.”
The fear of falling off a cliff led Kingston to develop an invention called a “Multipurpose Climbing Device.” The device can act as a pulley and can automatically lock into place if the rope starts slipping.
What makes Kingston's invention notable is that two ropes can be threaded through the device.
“It isn't a device that's available by some supplier,” Ed LaChapelle, a scientist with Bend Research and organizer of the contest, said of Kingston's invention. “It's a unique product, and it's a good idea.”
To show the judges his idea, Kingston developed a prototype made of aluminum, and drafted three-dimensional drawings of the invention. He also wrote a report.
He said he barely finished his project before the deadline. The paint was still drying on the prototype when he turned it in.
He says the invention is not only limited to rock climbing, but can also benefit the military, police and rescue organizations. It also could be used for ziplining.
Kingston plans to develop the prototype further. He is hoping to get support and help from local rock climbing gear organizations.
Kingston plans to invest the $1,000 prize money.
Last year, he took second for his idea of a watch that could diagnose illnesses.
Kingston wants to go to UCLA or USC and major in business.
Zach, 15, is a Summit High freshman. His invention stemmed from a fear about the effects of radiation caused by flying.
“I travel quite a bit,” Zach said. “I'm flying about 10 times a year, so it was something I could relate to.”
Zach said his grandfather, a radiologist, told him that radiation can be absorbed by traveling on planes. Zach did some research, reading an article that said that every hour on an airplane is equivalent to having an X-ray taken.
To help solve the problem, Zach came up with an idea for a blanket that can deflect radiation. The blanket uses lead mixed with polymers to block the radiation, which is then woven together with other strands of fabric. The blankets can easily be taken onboard by passengers, simultaneously keeping them warm while blocking harmful effects. Some radiation still seeps through, Zach says, but it makes a significant difference in lowering levels absorbed.
This isn't the first time Zach has placed at the Inventerprise contest. When he was in sixth grade, he won the top prize.
Zach is planning to put his $500 in winnings toward the purchase of a new camera. He is on Summit High's newspaper staff, and says he's looking forward to having new technology for the paper.
Henry is a sophomore at Summit High.
His invention stemmed from a fear that many people in Central Oregon have — crashing their cars because of icy roads. Henry is about to take his driver's test, and says that crashing because of slick roads is a fear he could understand.
Henry came up with an idea to create a vehicle that resembles a garbage truck. The vehicle goes through city streets, breaking up ice. The vehicle then scoops up the ice and melts it inside the truck. At the same time, the vehicle spreads salt to melt any remaining slick areas.
“I think it was chosen because it was pretty relevant to where we live our everyday lives,” Henry said.
Henry showed the judges his idea by creating diagrams and writing a short report.
The sophomore said he found out he was selected as runner-up during his Thanksgiving break. His parents called him downstairs, and at first he thought he was in trouble.
“I got scared for a moment,” Henry said.
Instead, he was told that he had won $500. He said he's planning to buy new skis.
Henry is also a multiple winner of the Inventerprise contest. In eighth grade, he won an iPod touch.
Alex, 10, is a Cascade Middle School sixth-grader.
His invention was based on his fear of losing his dog during a thunderstorm or other noisy event. One of his two dogs, an Australian Shepherd, gets frightened and agitated during Fourth of July fireworks displays.
Alex decided not only to take on his own fears of losing his dogs, but also his dogs' fears of loud explosions. He developed an idea for a doggie vest called “The Petsay Vest.” It looks a lot like a Camelback backpack and wraps around the dog's body. The vest contains massagers on the inside to sooth the dog. Specially made doggy earbuds are attached to the vest that provide relaxing sounds such as rainwater or ocean waves to block loud explosions from fireworks or thunderclaps.
Alex created a brochure for his product, and constructed a prototype out of a Ruffwear dog backpack. He even submitted photos of his dog wearing the vest.
Alex found out he won when he went to science class the first day back from the Thanksgiving break. His science teacher announced that he'd won, and Alex got a round of applause.
“It was really cool,” he said. “I was super happy about it.”
Alex opted for the Kindle Fire e-reader because he wanted to use it for his book reports. Alex also said he chose it because he wants to check out books out from the library and not worry about returning them.
Kyle Taylor and Seth McGuire
Kyle Taylor and Seth McGuire, both 11, are sixth-graders at Pilot Butte Middle School who worked together on their project.
Kyle and Seth were inspired by the fear of flooding. Kyle used to live in St. George, Utah, where he experienced flooding. Seth was moved by the footage he saw of tsunami flooding in Japan.
“There's been a lot of flooding recently, and we were trying to think up something that would help,” Seth said. “Floods can really cause a lot of damage.”
They came up with an idea for sandbag-type creations that would absorb massive amounts of water. The fabric part of the sandbags is made out of bamboo and spandex with Velcro attachments to stack easily, while the inside is composed of sodium polyacrylate, a type of grainy powder that absorbs water. The sandbags start off relatively light, and then expand as they soak up water. According to Seth and Kyle, one pound of sodium polyacrylate can absorb 50 gallons of water.
Kyle and Seth wrote a report and drew pictures of what the finished product would look like. They also did research at home with actual sodium polyacrylate to test their theory.
“I'm glad we worked together because we couldn't have done it without each other,” Kyle said.
Kyle and Seth both selected the 32 GB iPod Touch as their prize. Both said they chose the iPod because it would be the most useful.
They're hoping to one day get a patent, and to have their own company based on the invention. Kyle is thinking about becoming a scientist, while Seth wants to be a doctor.