“Global champion inventor” is a hefty title, but one that is well-deserved for UltraVii, Athegia, and Pollut-END, three teams of middle and high school students from across the state who were invited to compete in the 2022 Invention Convention Globals competition. Team UltraVii brought home first prize in the 12th grade category with their invention of a germicidal UV-C silicone pad designed to sanitize laptop keyboards. The students first earned top prizes in the statewide K-12 InVenture Prize competition, hosted by Georgia Tech. They then went on to win finalists' positions in the Invention Convention Nationals program.
To secure a spot in the Globals, the students submitted a video presentation of their invention, a prototype, an inventor’s logbook showing the journey of their invention process, and a poster board highlighting key points of the invention process.
The annual Invention Convention Globals, presented by Pratt & Whitney, featured K-12 inventors from across the United States, Mexico, Singapore and China. The winners were announced at an awards ceremony which was held virtually on Aug. 26.
“I want to congratulate all our Georgia inventors who made it to the Global competition; this is an incredible achievement and a great showing of the inventiveness that Georgia students and teachers possess. I’m especially proud of the repeat inventors in team UltraVii—your persistence has paid off!” said Roxanne Moore, Senior Research Engineer and Director of the K-12 InVenture Prize program in the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing.
“These kids are building a better future for all of us,” she added, “I can’t wait to see what they will do next.”
The three high school students on Team UltraVii were inspired to help solve a health and safety issue during the Covid pandemic. Concerned about a lack of proper disinfection of shared electronic devices in public spaces, the students created a pad that disinfects laptop keyboards and small electronics using ultraviolet light.
“Keyboards are huge infectious reservoirs for pathogenic diseases, which are often spread via touch and cross-contamination,” said Team UltraVii’s Michelle Li. “These germs accumulate and constantly spread every time you touch a laptop keyboard, permeating into our everyday lives. This is a huge concern for the medical industry where, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hospital-acquired infections run rampant and claim over 100,000 deaths each year and are especially deadly for those with autoimmune or underlying conditions. In addition, our invention is important in helping the average germ-conscious consumer reduce their environmental risk.”
Team UltraVii’s T.J. Lu explained that the invention was years in the making. “What has kept me going in this long process is the goal to make a perfect UltraVii. I had the idea of a laptop disinfecting pad back in early 2019, but I passed the idea off as unnecessary and too hard to build,” Lu said. “When the pandemic started, I realized UltraVii’s potential and began brainstorming the design with my team. Over the span of these years, my passion to improve each prototype after another has kept me going.”
Teammate Barnabas Li stressed that experimentation is a vital part of the invention process. “You want to be sure never to limit yourself only to what you know,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to try new things. They might not all work, but when you find the one that does, I promise you won’t regret the effort you put in. Keeping this mindset was vital to the success of UltraVii. In fact, many of the components in our latest prototype, such as the retractable mechanism, are things we originally thought were impossible to implement.”
Jackson Huckaby, a mathematics teacher at North Oconee High School, who serves as the team’s mentor, said that he has been immensely impressed by the determination and resilience his students have shown in pursuing their invention. “Our school has had a history of success at the K-12 InVenture Prize competition, so the group had a belief that they could compete and win from day one,” he said. “I make it a point to check in every few weeks to ensure that they are meeting deadlines and I provide some feedback and advice from time to time, but in the end, UltraVii is their product. Allowing the students to create and design at their own pace has resulted in them taking ownership of the competition. I think that this approach has led UltraVii to be more of a passion and hobby than just a school project.”
For McIntosh High School senior Marc Van Zyl of Team Athegia, the global competition was not only a chance to present his invention to a large audience, but it was also a learning process for him. “You learn a lot from the judges’ feedback. And honestly, a lot of the inspiration for what I do comes directly from other people in the competition,” he explained. “They provide avenues of thought of how to approach the problems and ideas for new iterations of my device.”
That device is an at-home medical monitoring system that uses Bluetooth technology to link together services for senior citizens with chronic diseases. Van Zyl said that the device started as a high school science project, inspired by concerns for the health of his grandmother.
“So, the idea that drew me to this realm was my grandmother, who slipped on her driveway and broke her hip. She had to get a hip replacement and she stayed in the hospital for almost two weeks,” he said. “And I was just thinking there's so many things that can go wrong, such as infections, things that can happen even once you're at home. I was wondering if there was some way to figure out far more easily and efficiently how to send this data to her doctor.”
Van Zyl said there is an important link between being an inventor and being an entrepreneur who takes the invention all the way to the marketplace. “I’m only halfway there,” he said. “I really want to become an entrepreneur. I really want to bring a lot of these ideas to life so I can begin to help people.”
Eleven-year-old middle schooler Audrey Cristelli had a clear vision and an exact goal, to help clean up the environment and end pollution. Her invention “Pollut-End” is an app that uses gamified sustainability to plan and help people sign up for environmental cleanups. After working with her target teacher at Smyrna Elementary School, Lisa Rogers, and developing several iterations of the app throughout multiple competitions, Cristelli is now working with attorneys to obtain a patent before proceeding with developing the app for the marketplace.
I have seen tremendous growth in Audrey,” Rogers said. “She has worked very hard to overcome her fears and anxiety. She took risks, was persistent and through the process, she knew that she was bigger than her fears. I am extremely proud of her.”
The process of developing her invention and presenting it to the public has been a life-changing experience, Cristelli explained. “This process helped my confidence and has helped me be less shy,” she said. “I also learned that kids could make a difference. All anyone ever sees is adults making inventions. But kids have great ideas too! I am so grateful and happy with everything that has happened and I’m excited for the future.”
—Randy Trammell, CEISMC Communications