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STEAM-in-action: Young inventors tackle community challenges with heart

This information provided by Smart Cities Council North America.

Hope for the future comes through loud and clear in the Inventor’s Challenge hosted by AT&T and the Imagination Foundation. This is the second year they’ve challenged young people to use science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) to solve problems in their schools and communities. We’re guessing you’ll find the inventions they came up with as inspiring as we did.


Nearly 10,000 young people from pre-kindergarten through high school submitted entries in the challenge – and there was no shortage of imagination or of compassion.

Writing on an AT&T blog about the challenge, Anne Wintroub suggested what amazed her most was the amount of empathy evident in the entries.

“Several came up with ideas for helping the less fortunate – such as Kaylee from Bluffton, S.C., who created an innovative new way to collect food for the homeless with her ‘Box for Food,’” Wintroub noted. “Others designed new ways to help save the environment like New Hampshire’s Team Waggle and their Bee Safe App designed to help save honey bees.”

Tough job for the judges who had to narrow the entries to four winners – one from each age category -- plus one honorable mention. Here’s a quick look at all five:

  • Honorable mention went to the Purposeful Inventors team from Coeur d’Arlene, Idaho. They designed a car for a friend with cerebral palsy, addressing the challenges faced by children with physical disabilities.
  • The Thomas Edison Prize (grades preK–2) went to Alyssa, a Grayson, GA second-grader who came up with “The Journey Box” containing toys and other useful items for homeless children.
  • The Alexander Graham Bell Prize (grades 3–5) went to 11-year-old Kiki from Richmond, Va., for the “All-You-Need-Cane” equipped with a shoehorn, flashlight, glasses holder and other tools to help improve the lives of seniors.
  • The Nikola Tesla Prize (grades 6–8) was won by 14-year-old Bram from Villanova, PA, for his “Integrated Stress Fault Detector” (illustrated above). It uses a mini-computer and flex sensor to alert emergency services personnel when it detects excessive stress on structures like support beams during a building collapse.
  • The Leonardo Da Vinci Prize (grades 9–12) went to Kellyn from Manchester, N.H., for her Switch Shelf, described as a simple and clever invention for people living in small spaces. It’s a piece of furniture that can function as both a standup shelf and a flat rollaway storage solution.

Click to watch videos of the winning entries.

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This article is from the Council's Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.

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