Rebekah Huang is a 7-year-old student from Belmont who loves making things.
Right now, her favorite form of creation is paper folding — as in origami and paper airplanes — but late last year she was fascinated with inventing a tip-proof chair for her 3-year-old brother Victor so that he would stop knocking his chair over at the dinner table.
Fortunately, this coincided with a pilot program between New Covenant School, where she is in second grade, and Lemelson-MIT to teach students about invention, so Rebekah invented a solution she called the Mighty Suction Holders. Thanks to that collaboration, Rebekah won second place for her age group in The Henry Ford’s Invention Convention Globals presented by Raytheon Technologies. She previously won first place in her grade category at Invention Convention US Nationals.
“You can buy special types of chairs that don’t tip over easily, but my suction holder string can be put around any chair you already have at home,” she said in a statement. “So my invention is much more convenient.”
Rebekah was among 185 students from participating Invention Convention Nationals programs in several countries. A virtual celebration took place on Aug. 20.
The pilot program sponsored by Lemelson-MIT integrated a unit on invention education into New Covenant’s curriculum expanding on the STEAM concept of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math to include Invention.
According to Pascha Griffiths, the Lemelson-MIT Program’s invention education coordinator , this approach encourages students to find problems around them, ask those affected what they need, and build a solution accordingly. That solution can range from building a physical contraption to a phone app depending on the problem, the inventor’s age, and technical abilities.
“Invention is a sort of cross interdisciplinary discipline of problem finding,” said Griffiths, “And it involves a lot of empathy. You’re looking at the world or looking at the people you know, and love, and you’re seeing what problem are they experiencing.”
This year, the program is expanding to more schools, with online open houses for interested teachers available at bit.ly/inventioneducation.
Diana Bravo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.