Braham High School was recently awarded a Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam grant in the amount of $10,000 to create Microgravity Washing Machines that will help solve logistical problems associated with future Mars and Moon missions. Braham High School is one of 13 high schools nationwide to be selected as an InvenTeam this year.
InvenTeams are teams of high school students, teachers and mentors that receive grants up to $10,000 each to invent technological solutions to real-world problems. This initiative of the Lemelson-MIT Program aims to inspire a new generation of inventors.
“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.”
Luke Becker at Braham High School initiated the InvenTeam application process last spring and worked with the students over the summer to prepare the final proposal. A prestigious panel of judges composed of educators, researchers, staff and alumni from MIT, as well as representatives from industry and former Lemelson-MIT Award winners, assembled virtually this fall and selected Braham High School as one of this year’s InvenTeam grantees.
The goal is to wash clothing in space. Currently, astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) are disposing of their used clothing after wearing it. The ISS needs to be resupplied often to get the astronauts their clothing since they can’t wash them. In future missions it would be unreasonable to resupply clothing from far away. (For example, it is approximately 3-6 months to get to Mars.) Another problem astronauts comment that the dirty clothes get smelly in the trash. The model needs to be compact, efficient, and up to standard to run well on the ISS.
The Braham High School InvenTeam will also work with the NASA HUNCH Program from Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Glenn Johnson of NASA HUNCH, who will guide the students through the development of their invention.
“The Braham High School CTE program is built on experiential, hands-on, problem-based learning. We have worked to create an atmosphere where our students, and my team, feel empowered to experiment and to persevere through challenges,” Becker said. “Every year NASA puts forth a problem they haven’t been able to solve in 60 years of space travel through their NASA HUNCH program. For the last two years, my students have designed two different theoretical washing machine solutions. The Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam grant is providing my students with the resources to potentially take these projects from the drawing board to Mars.”
“I am the Lead Design Engineer for the NASA HUNCH Design and Prototype program. We get high school students to help solve problems for the International Space Station and other space programs then we build final designs and try to send some of those student solutions to the ISS. I have worked with Mr. Becker and his students for the past two years and have seen the results from his students working on our projects as well as other projects,” said Glenn Johnson, NASA HUNCH Lead Design Engineer. “I am impressed with his style of teaching that engages the students in designing as a team then building as a team. I believe that students who are involved with a hands-on project from design start to product finish will make better employees, engineers and better business owners because they have seen many steps that they can use in the future.”
Over the next nine months, the Braham High School InvenTeam will develop its Microgravity Washing Machine. The team will build a working prototype of their invention that is showcased at a technical review within the local community in February, and then again as a final prototype at EurekaFest, an invention celebration in June of 2021.
About the Lemelson-Mit Program
The Lemelson-MIT Program celebrates outstanding inventors and inspires young people to pursue creative lives and careers through invention.
Jerome H. Lemelson, one of U.S. history’s most prolific inventors, and his wife Dorothy founded the Lemelson-MIT Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994. It is funded by The Lemelson Foundation and administered by the School of Engineering at MIT, an institution with a strong ongoing commitment to creating meaningful opportunities for K-12 STEM education. For more information, visit lemelson.mit.edu.