Viper Nation Education Foundation
VNEF Lemelson-MIT Inven-Team
The Viper Nation Education Foundation sponsored Vandegrift High School students in the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam program in 2012 and 2014, a prestigious STEM initiative that recognizes outstanding inventors and inspires young people to pursue creative lives and careers through invention. InvenTeams™ receive up to $10,000 each to devise technological solutions to real-world problems of their own choosing.
In 2014, VNEF recruited Jan Masterson, science teacher at Four Points Middle School, to lead these students. After a multi-step process that started with more than 500 applicants from across the US, the VNEF team continually advanced, becoming one of 15 finalists selected to win the Excite Award and receive funds to complete their invention. In June 2015, the team attended EurekaFest on the MIT campus to showcase their invention called “The Dalmatian.” Inspired by the Steiner Ranch wildfires of 2011, these students created a mechanical device for firefighters that increases their safety and efficiency by preventing the kinking of water hoses and enabling a continuous flow of water.
In 2013, VHS’ all-girl InvenTeam™ earned the Excite Award to create a handheld GPS-enabled device for the blind and visually impaired that will improve personal independence. Led by Computer Science Teacher Rad Allen, the system associates GPS coordinates with user-identified indoor locations. When the user passes by a location, they hear a sound and/or feel a vibration. Indoor locations can be stored and shared so that other users of the device can discover new places to go.
Funded by the Lemelson Foundation and administered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the InvenTeam™ initiative has offered an unparalleled opportunity for high school students to cultivate their creativity and inventing experience since 2002. InvenTeam students rely on inquiry and hands-on problem solving as they apply lessons from STEM to develop invention prototypes. Students learn to work on teams, while collaborating with intended users of their inventions. They partner with professional in their communities to enrich their experiences. Most of all, students learn to move forward through challenges and celebrate “Eureka!” moments.