July 22, 2017

Our Full EurekaFest Experience

(Sophia Siegel '18, Samar Ahmed '18)

     After a year of hard work, we finally did it: presented at EurekaFest2017, Lemelson-MIT’s showcase at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA. Showcasing our invention and collaborating with the other grant recipients from around the country was invigorating, and seeing others intrigued by our creation, well, it was eye opening. From the presentation itself, to the things we learned while attending Eurekafest, the whole experience showed us that we truly can do anything we set our minds to.

     Starting bright and early, we left for the airport at 4:30 in the morning on Thursday the 15th, all of us practically bursting with excitement. We landed safely in Boston later that morning, unpacked in our dorm rooms, and then got to explore the MIT campus before we gathered with the other groups. We saw our fellow Inventeam members around, all of us wondering what the big “pep rally” the Lemelson-MIT Program leaders had planned for us was all about.

     It certainly was a pep rally! All fifteen groups were packed into one of the spacious auditoriums of the MIT campus, cheering and smiling and so excited to be there. All the groups introduced themselves, which featured a very excited cheer from us from the Sunshine State.

     After we were pumped full of energy, we made our way over to one of the classrooms to unpack and set up our device for the presentation the next day. We worked diligently, and when we were finished and satisfied with our product, we retired to the dorms for the night.

     We presented on Friday, the 16th. The second group in our room to go, we were nervous, as the seats were filled with other students and professors. However, once we got up there, the fear vanished. We all spoke with a passion for our project that really shone through, which was particularly evident throughout the question and answer session. Understanding how these water issues are vital to us and our community as a whole, every member on the team felt truly connected to one another, and to the invention itself.

     In the afternoon following the presentations, we set up a booth with a poster board, a stylish map created by one of our educators, Mr. Osborn, and a couple computer screens with videos explaining our project. Rose and Jack were mounted beautifully beside the table and we had the amazing opportunity to showcase and explain our invention to dozens of eager people attending EurekaFest. It was truly an experience to be able to have conversations about a device we all had a part in building, and to have people so interested in learning more about it! It certainly was a day we will never forget.

     In the evening, we got to witness the awards ceremony for undergraduate and graduate students who were granted cash prizes for their inventions through a national invention program, also supported by the Lemelson-MIT Foundation. Each of the recipients of this prestigious award presented, and we were able to experience the next higher level of inventing. It was maybe a glimpse into the future for some of us, and it was fulfilling to talk with them after their presentations.

     Before going to bed, we deconstructed our device and put them back in their boxes to be shipped back to Florida. Dancing and playing music, the whole team sang while packing up our device, all of us in a good mood. We couldn’t wait to see what else the EurekaFest organizers had in store for us the next day.

     The next morning, as we were getting our breakfast, we were sorted into different groups -- completely random. All of us mingled with our new group members; we got to talk and hang out with people from all across the country. We were then led into the MIT athletic center, surrounded by inflatable duck toys. Yes, duck toys.Each of our groups was led to a station with miscellaneous supplies such as plastic bags, coat hangers, and rope. Our task: In a mere three hours, design a wind-powered system capable of lifting as many rubber ducks off of the ground as possible.

     In our new groups, we quickly used our individual strengths to complete our task. We packed our creations and headed over to the Museum of Science to test them in an afternoon of fun and excitement. It was truly a show. After every group had their turn, there was a spectacular light show with bubbles and rubber ducks falling from the ceiling. We then made our way back to our Pine School family and explored the museum for the rest of the afternoon. That evening we said goodbye to our new Inventeam friends and wrapped up our EurekaFest journey.

     As true floridians, we figured we would spend our last day in Boston as tourists. We took a nice long walk along the Charles River to get from the MIT campus, up through Beacon Hill,  to Boston, and afterwards we strolled right into the city. One of our educators, Mr. Osborn, is a history teacher, so it was only fitting that he led us into the most historic parts of Boston. First on our “tour” was a stroll through the brick roads of Boston, where several of the buildings built during colonial America were still being used to this day. Next, we stopped by the Boston Common, a venerable park with historic cred and a lovely green atmosphere.

Just a couple blocks down was the infamous spot where the Boston Massacre took place in 1770. We stopped by on the way to our next location, the Boston Harbor. We truly got to experience the cool ocean air of the present mixed with the authenticity of the location’s history. Finally, we made our way over to the shopping area of downtown Boston to retrieve some souvenirs before heading to the airport to wrap up our journey.

     Overall, Eurekafest was the perfect way to end our year with the InventTeam. This trip not only showcased our invention, but the bond we created with each other and our teachers. Throughout the entire process, we learned things that cannot be taught in the classroom. There was something truly inspiring about seeing our ideas come to life. In high school, it's sometimes hard to believe you are capable of doing such a thing like inventing an entirely new solution to a problem. However, due to this experience, we realized that it is not only possible, but probable. Thanks to the Lemelson-MIT Program and our teachers, our team realized that the world is at our fingertips, and that all we have to do is work together and take initiative