Whitewater Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam Feature

Front Page Summary: 

Fayetteville, Georgia chapter members participate in a Lemelson-MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) InvenTeam grant to invent a combination dehydrator and water condenser.

Whitewater High School (Fayetteville, GA) was recently awarded a Lemelson-MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) InvenTeam grant in the amount of $8,885 to create a combination dehydrator and water condenser to preserve foods in developing counties and to obtain potable (drinkable) water. Whitewater High School is one of 16 high schools nationwide to be selected as an InvenTeam this year.

InvenTeams are teams of high school students, teachers, and mentors that receive grants up to $10,000 each to invent technological solutions to real-world problems. Entering its seventh year, this initiative of the Lemelson-MIT Program aims to inspire a new generation of inventors. Two of the Whitewater InventTeam members are members of TSA, and the others are from different groups within the school. “It is a very diverse group of students,” said TSA chapter advisor, Carolyn Smith.

Ms. Smith, the Engineering & Technology teacher, and Dr. Wansley, physics teacher at Whitewater High School initiated the InvenTeam application process last spring and attended training at MIT in June to help prepare the final proposal. A prestigious panel of judges composed of educators and researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University, representatives from the industry, MIT staff and alumni, and former Lemelson-MIT Award winners assembled this fall and selected Whitewater High School for one of this year’s InvenTeam grants.

Ms. Smith and Dr. Wansley, co-sponsors of the Whitewater InvenTeam, are very excited to be working with these dedicated students who have made such great progress so far in developing a feasible idea, writing the proposal, and overcoming invention obstacles. They are “thrilled that we have the privilege of working with these highly motivated students on a project with this kind of potential, said Dr. Wansley”.

“Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders. By encouraging a sustainable culture of invention in schools and communities, we hope to empower high school students to explore their interests in science, technology, engineering, and math during high school, college, and beyond. Further, our goal is to instill confidence in youth to solve problems they encounter,” said Leigh Estabrooks, invention educator officer of the Lemelson-MIT Program, who manages the initiative. “The InvenTeam experience provides valuable exposure to these fields and enhances professional skills such as teamwork and leadership.”

As part of the proposal, the Whitewater High School InvenTeam must create an Invention Statement, which is a basic description of their idea. When asked how they came up with their invention idea, Ms. Smith replied “Dr. Wansley and I started with a group of students last spring who were interested in green technology. We had so many diverse interests that the initial thought was to try to create an off-grid mobile home unit. As time moved forward, we lost some students from graduation, summer, etc. At the start of this year, those students that were left were focusing on alternative fuel, specifically algae. Through research with algae, we started focusing on the dehydration process.” Whitewater High School’s Invention Statement is: “We will invent a dehydrator that has been combined with a dehumidifier, which can be used by farmers, food processing corporations, or bio-diesel corporations in rural developing countries. The dehydrator would effectively and efficiently dehydrate a product within few days, while also condensing the moisture out of the air for use by the cultivators as drinking water. It will have expandable capacity to grow with the increase of their businesses, yet low cost to the consumer.”

The Whitewater High School InvenTeam will also work with several outside mentors through professional support and expertise. The professional members include: American Society for Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers; Institute of Industrial Engineers; David Wolf, Senior Manufacturing Engineer of Hoshizaki in Peachtree City, GA.; Dr. Senthil Chinnansamy & Dr. K.C. Das of UGA; John A. Pierson, P.E., Principal Research Engineer at Georgia Tech Research Institute; Mr. David Folley, Westside International; Mr. Brick Ranson, Technical Support for Solar Still Oceanmark; and Mr. Ron Smith, President of Federal Outsourcing at CIBER, Inc. of Peachtree City who will guide the students through the development of their invention.

Over the next nine months, the Whitewater High School InvenTeam will develop its dehydrator and condenser. In June, 2009, the students will showcase a prototype of their invention at EurekaFest at MIT in Cambridge, MA. EurekaFest, presented by the Lemelson-MIT Program, is a multi-day celebration designed to empower a legacy of inventors through activities that inspire youth, honor role models, and encourage creativity and problem solving.

About the Lemelson-MIT Program
The Lemelson-MIT Program recognizes outstanding inventors, encourages sustainable new solutions to real-world problems, and enables and inspires young people to pursue creative lives and careers through invention.

Jerome H. Lemelson, one of U.S. history’s most prolific inventors, and his wife Dorothy founded the Lemelson-MIT Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994. The Lemelson Foundation, which funds the program, is a private philanthropy that celebrates and supports inventors and entrepreneurs to strengthen social and economic life.