By Stacey Bomser
Infectious diseases such as Malaria and the Zika virus may no longer be a threat thanks to the efforts of a group of students from Northeast High School. The school’s InvenTeam was awarded a $10,000 Lemelson-MIT grant to develop a mosquito breeding disruptor.
Northeast High is one of only 15 high schools nationwide selected as an InvenTeam this year. InvenTeams are teams of high school students, teachers and mentors who receive grants of up to $10,000 to invent technological solutions to real-world problems.
The Northeast High InvenTeam is developing a device to deter mosquitoes from laying eggs in standing water. With the help of mentor Paul Fucile, a senior engineer from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, the students are creating an autonomous, automatic and environmentally safe device that breaks the surface tension of stagnant water in ponds and lakes, as well as shallow containers and underground sewer systems. Their goal is to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs in water sources and then spreading mosquito borne illnesses, such as Zika and Malaria, to humans in urban tropical environments.
Another advantage for the Northeast High team is that their advisor, Biology Teacher L. Clara Mabour, is a former InvenTeam winner. Five years ago, as a Northeast High student, Mabour’s team was awarded a $10,000 InvenTeam grant to create a portable water sanitation system that could be used after natural disasters. Two members of that winning InvenTeam were invited to attend the 2013 White House Science Fair, where President Obama rode the bicycle that powered their water filtration system.
This year’s Northeast High InvenTeam has until June to perfect their mosquito breeding disruptor. They will showcase a prototype of their invention at EurekaFest at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). EurekaFest 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.
“The InvenTeams program represents the future,” said Leigh Estabrooks, invention education officer from the Lemelson-MIT Program. “We place an emphasis on STEM-focused projects to develop interest in these fields among youth. With InvenTeams, our primary goal is to foster high school students’ passion for invention, in turn inspiring them to consider careers in science, technology, engineering or math.”
The InvenTeam winners and grant recipients were selected by a panel of judges composed of educators, researchers, staff and alumni from MIT, and representatives from the industry and former Lemelson-MIT Award winners.