Invention isn’t just for the lab coats

Words like ‘invention’ and ‘innovation’ are often associated with research laboratories, high-tech start-ups and accelerator programs  – things that require special qualifications, serious funding or at least a secret handshake to bring to life. A perception, which would deter most people. Invention and innovation are not dark arts requiring any pre-requisite knowledge or special training and they’re certainly not domains reserved only for the Apples and Teslas of the world. Rather it’s about having the vision to see better ways of doing things and the tenacity to bring that vision to life – however small or big that vision may be.

Invention and innovation are not domains reserved only for the Apples and Teslas of the world

Meet the all-school-girl engineer team that invented a solar-powered tent for the homeless. Student inventions are not a new thing…after all Facebook was created by a university student. What’s so interesting about this story, is that none of the teens from San Fernando High School who worked on the invention had ever coded, soldered, sewn, or 3D-printed before – all requirements to build the solar-powered tent that folds up into a roll away backpack. But thanks to YouTube, Google and some trial-and-error, a group of high school girls without any hands-on engineering experience were able to create something pretty special.

The all-school girl team without any hands-on engineering experience invented a solar-powered tent for the homeless

The team had discussed other ideas to help address pollution and water quality but decided to do something to help their local community directly and so settled on the idea for solar-powered tents. In the San Fernando Valley, which is about 20 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, homelessness has increased by 36% in the past year. The girls come from low-income families, so giving money wasn’t an option but they also wanted to offer something other than money.

With the support of DIY Girls – a nonprofit that teaches girls from low-income communities about engineering, math, and science – they team won a $10,000 grant from the Lemelson-MIT Program to develop the invention, and recently presented the invention at MIT as part of a young inventors conference. The girls also fundraised an additional $15,000 to travel to MIT, an expense they couldn’t otherwise afford.

While the team don’t have concrete plans for the future of their invention after the MIT presentation, they hope it could eventually be mass-produced. Regardless, they’ve made a great start and have to proved to be an exemplar for budding innovators and inventors of any gender or social class.

 

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