Inventive creations net six central Ohio students national recognition

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A child’s imagination can create more than fantastical stories, and it seems that the Columbus area isn’t short of inventive, young minds.

In late May, six central Ohio students placed at the 4th annual Invention Convention U.S. Nationals at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

Second-grader Samrithy Balaji, 8, of Dublin won first place in the second-grade category.

Samrithy, a student at Griffith Thomas Elementary School in Dublin, designed a “de-acidification system” that reduces the acidity of wastewater by adding baking soda, making it safe to release into water sources. 

She first imagined the system after reading a book about pollution in class.

“I thought it would be really harmful to our Earth if it was full of acid water,”  Samrithy said.

She wanted her invention to be cost effective and simple.

“There are many industries that release acid water a lot, the metal industry, the printing industry, the plastic industry, and there could be many more,” Samrithy said. 

Samrithy tested her prototypes for more than a year. She considered heating the acid water and collecting the steam in a tube, leaving behind acid particles. That was too expensive and time consuming, so she tried vinegar, but it didn’t reduce acidity.

Through trial-and-error, and watching her parents in the kitchen, she decided to use baking soda.

Katie Johnson, 8, of Bexley, won third place in her grade level for a weather chair, a wheelchair with survival features, such as an earthquake kickstand and a flotation device.

“My cousin Daniel is in a wheelchair. He already has enough diseases, and I thought I could help him,” Katie said.

Katie tried three prototypes.

“If I see a problem in my invention, I try and fix it,” she said. “Not just try and fix it, but bring it to the next level.”

For both Samrithy and Katie, delivering their concepts to the judges was the most anxiety-inducing part of invention convention.

“I was pretty out-of-my-pants scared,” Katie said of the judges.

Despite the nerves, she wasn’t too worried, because whether she placed or not, “it was an honor just to be at nationals.”

Each of these young inventors strives to improve the lives of those around them — and not just human lives.  

Columbus eighth-grader Lia McMillan won the Animal Care and Pets Industry Innovation Award for “Dora Dog Bed.”

“Dogs are part of the family,” said the 13-year-old,who attends Columbus Gifted Academy. “We sit on furniture; they should have furniture, too.” 

It features a fan that creates white noise and slightly vibrates the bed, simulating a car ride to help dogs slip into sleep. The bedding is made of orthopedic foam pads and quilt batting for extra comfort.

Lia’s 18-year-old dog, Dora, had trouble falling and staying asleep. But with her invention, Dora now sleeps through the whole night.

“I just want my dog bed to help dogs who have problems like my dog,” she said. “Parents have to drive around babies sometimes, it’s the same concept.”

The other local kids who placed are:

•  Makiyla Carrico, a sixth grader at Dominion Middle School, won the Best Blend of Design and Engineering Specialty award for her invention, “The ‘You Get It All’ Insulin Plunger”. The 11-year-old lives in Columbus.

• Zora Womack, an 11-year-old at Grace Christian School on the Far East Side, took third place in the sixth-grade category for “The Pole Roll”, which helps elderly people get out of bed without falling. The invention is designed to decrease the number of falls, brain injuries, and deaths each year, said Womack who lives in Gahanna.

• Madison Twyford, 10, a fourth grader at Walnut Creek Elementary School in Galena, took home the Popular Choice Award for her invention, “Flour Power Cooking Cover.”

Invention Convention provides students in grades K-12 an opportunity to use the invention process to create and pitch an original product at a national convention. More than 120,000 students from across 23 states and four countries competed this year for a chance to participate in the national event.

@stephaterese

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