On Saturday, May 20th, 2023, seventeen students from Norfolk Public Schools participated in Virginia’s inaugural Invention Convention at Selden Market in Downtown Norfolk, sponsored by the Norfolk Innovation Corridor in partnership with Raytheon.
Invention Convention is a K-12 invention education program offered by the Henry Ford Foundation that teaches students problem-identification, problem-solving, entrepreneurship, and creativity skills, and builds confidence in invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
The young students from Lindenwood Elementary, Lake Taylor School, and Next Steps to Success worked diligently with their teachers since January on identifying a problem and devising a solution. They researched the market for competitive solutions, made and remade prototypes, and this past weekend were finally ready to pitch their inventions to a special group of judges and guests.
It was an honor to have CAPT Janet Days, commanding officer of the Naval Base Norfolk, join our panel of judges, which also included Carlos Clanton of the Norfolk School Board; LeEunice Brown, Community Engagement Coordinator at Norfolk Public Schools; Nancy Prather-Johnson, Dean of Business and IT at Tidewater Community College; Donna Phaneuf, Chair of the NIC and founder of VIA design, Susan Sidersky, Implementation Engineer at AT&T; Destini Harrell, Street-Level Economic & Cultural Developer; James Doe, Founder, Diaphanous; Robyn Sidersky, Associate Editor of Virginia Business magazine; Chazona Baum, Engineering Manager at Untapped; and Emanuel Perez, Cofounder & CEO, Novus.
The judges assessed 13 inventions on the following attributes:
- The invention process (identifying & understanding, ideating, designing & building, testing & refining)
- The invention’s impact
- The inventor’s communication (display board, prototype, and pitch)
Edmond Gordon Jr., a fourth grader at Lake Taylor School, received First Place in the K-5 division and a $50 cash award for his invention titled “Lazy Plant Feeder.” This plant feeder is equipped with an automated watering device to keep plants hydrated.
Tyvon Coston, a fifth grader at Lindenwood Elementary, received Second Place in the K-5 division for his invention titled “Digicuffs.” These biometric digital handcuffs were designed to help law enforcement by eliminating the need for keys for handcuffs. Tyvon was supported by his peers Aiden Bynum and Charlotte Brewer, all of whom received a $25 cash award.
Arielle Hardy, a sixth grader at Lake Taylor School, received First Place in the 6 and Up division and a $50 cash award for her invention titled “Smart Recycling.” Once you scan a QR code, it links to the app that helps people make the right decision about recycling and reducing waste in landfills.
Aara Rassiwala, a seventh grader at Lake Taylor School, received Second Place in the 6 and Up division for her invention titled “Safety Links.” This necklace alerts the police and gives the location of people who have become victims of human trafficking.
Taking it a step further, two students have remained engaged in the process by presenting their inventions to experts in their field of study. Donna Phaneuf, Founder, President, and Lead Design Principal at VIA Design, has invited Larrae “Storm” Simmons from Next Steps to Success to pitch her sustainable building invention “Solid as a Rock” to her team of architects. Michael Benedetto of TFC Recycling also has plans to meet with Arielle Hardy, inventor of “Smart Recycling.”
Overall, Virginia’s first Invention Convention was a success, with an incredible turnout. We are so excited to see that the future of Hampton Roads, and the nation, is in good hands with these creative problem solvers at the helm.
Below are some pictures from the event! We can’t wait for next year: