One of the most exciting events that the Cricket Media team participates in each year is the Spark!Lab Dr. InBae Yoon Invent It Challenge. Spring is invention season at our DC office. Some of us are busy getting in touch with teachers to encourage their students to enter, some spend hours judging the submissions by talented kids around the world, while others work around the clock finishing the winners’ gallery in time for the announcement of the winners. This is our 8th year co-sponsoring the challenge, and we’ve loved every minute of it.
So what exactly is the Spark!Lab Dr. InBae Yoon Invent It Challenge, and why does it have such a long name? This contest is designed to empower kids to believe that ANYONE can create inventions that will help create a better world. The challenge is named in honor of Dr. InBae Yoon, a surgeon who holds over 200 US Patents for his many inventions, which he developed to make surgery safer and easier to perform. When he passed away in 2014, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History added many of his inventions and papers to their collection. The Yoon family sponsors the challenge to this day. As for the Spark!Lab, that’s a special area in the American History Museum that allows young museum visitors to become inventors—but you don’t need to travel to DC to do that, as our Invent It Challenge winners show!
Every challenge focuses on a different topic, from natural disaster relief to world health problems to this year’s topic, making daily life easier for older adults. We were thrilled to receive over 250 entries from more than 564 students, spread across four different continents. Picking winners for each age group wasn’t easy, but our panel of judges from Cricket Media, Smithsonian, and AARP ultimately chose this year’s champions.
Without further ado, here they are! We’ve linked to their videos on YouTube below, but many of them are actually easier to view in PowerPoint form in our winners’ gallery!
The Pop Out Stairs (Ages 5-7 Team Winner)
New Yorkers Rosemary and Ava, both 7 years old, designed the Pop Out Stairs to help older adults “feel safe when reaching things up high.” This cane can be unfolded to reveal ‘rungs’ that can be connected to create a set of portable stairs, proving that even the youngest inventors can create ingenious inventions.
The Tomato Picker (Ages 5-7 Individual Winner)
6-year-old Brendan from Virginia came up with this clever device after seeing his grandfather struggle with back pain while picking tomatoes. It comes complete with a basket to carry multiple tomatoes at once. Brendan built his idea off of a ‘grabber’ tool that his grandfather already owned and made a few improvements of his own.
The Craw (Ages 8-10 Team Winner)
Nine-year-old Lucia, Emma Jay, and Alana, all from New York, invented an extension arm that older adults can use to grab difficult-to-reach objects, complete with a safety light. Their inspiration came from a COBBLESTONE Magazine article about another former kid inventor: Benjamin Franklin himself. He made an extension arm to grab books on tall shelves in the library.
Virtual Me (Ages 8-10 Individual Winner)
10-year-old Kavi, who comes from California, returns to the Invent It Challenge as a winner for the second year in a row! You wouldn’t expect an elementary schooler to develop an invention that combines virtual reality and artificial intelligence, but Invent It Challenge winners aren’t just any elementary schoolers. Kavi noticed that his great aunt was much more detached and less invested in self-care when apart from her daughter– her preferred caretaker. Virtual Me aims to give older adults the emotional support and personal connection that they need with the help of a robot that resembles a preferred caretaker. Kavi’s research took him to an unexpected place: DIsneyland! The Haunted Mansion ride features one of the oldest examples of projection mapping.
FIG: Fresh Food From Indoor Gardens (Ages 11-13 Team Winner)
What do you get when you put 7 middle schoolers together? In the case of this New Jersey team, you get an innovative indoor gardening system! Andrew, Braden, Christopher, Eddie, Madison, Martael, and Wilda explored the Japanese concept of “ikigai” to help older adults who suffer from depression and lack of purpose. “Ikigai” posits that when people feel they have purpose, they strive to be their best selves every day. The FIG is designed to help seniors learn to care for themselves by caring for plants.
The Temp-Plate (Ages 11-3 Individual Winner)
11-year-old Ravindu, from Connecticut, noticed that his grandmother and aunt ate very slowly and often lost their appetite when her food got cold. To encourage her to be healthy and finish her food without having to constantly reheat her meal in the microwave, he developed the Temp-Plate, which keeps food at a desired temperature– without the risk of burns!
Pop Up Planter (Ages 14+ Team Winners)
Missouri teens Delaney and Makenzie, both 15, invented the “Pop Up Planter,” a hydraulic-powered garden bed designed to help people with limited mobility improve their health. They say, “Gardening can provide Vitamin D, decrease the risk of dementia by 36%, relieve stress, provide, exercise, and help combat loneliness.” Sounds like an absolute win! Their creative use of hydraulic lifts made the garden beds easier to use and adjust to a variety of heights.
The Helping Hand (Ages 14+ Individual Winner)
Sophia, a student from Missouri, came up with this ‘handy’ invention– a glove fitted with a variety of tools for cleaning teeth that makes brushing and flossing easier for adults with arthritis. She says, “Not brushing regularly can cause serious health problems… Seniors 65 and older have an average of 9.24 decayed or missing teeth and 43.02 decayed or missing surfaces.” Watch until the very end to see Sophia’s amazing blooper reel, which truly does prove that science is a process of trial and error!
Fans also got to vote for their favorites of the inventions for the 2019 ePals Choice Award! This year, for the first time ever, the results were TOO CLOSE to call, with The Craw and FIG receiving around 19,000 votes each! We can’t promise that next year’s results will be equally dramatic, but either way, we can’t wait to see what will unfold in the 9th annual challenge!
Oh, and we might need one of those Temp-Plates for our office, thanks.