The Eureka(Fest) Moment
As soon as midnight struck on June 1st, we were officially in our two week countdown to EurekaFest. Our team was super excited, but we also knew HANDL was not totally ready to be shown off. Our engineers kicked into overdrive, our presentation group rehearsed until we could recite our parts in our sleep (with Justin doing double duty!), and everyone pitched in to make sure we were ready to go. In the midst of the craziness, we also hosted our final fundraiser at the Admiral Gas Station in WIlliamston, pushing our total earnings to $16,400. As always, we were blown away by the generosity of our community, right up to the end of our fundraising journey.
Finally, everything was in order and it was time to head to Boston! At 4am, yes, you read that right, on June 14th, we headed to the airport and began one of the longest, and most fun, days of our lives :)
On the plus side of waking up at 3 am, we arrived in Boston with plenty of time for sightseeing, and we didn’t let a minute go to waste. First, we headed to Boston Harbor to ride Codzilla, a giant speed boat that was just as fun as it was terrifying and left us totally soaked. We also got our first good view of the harbor, which is absolutely stunning.
Later that day, much of the team visited the aquarium while Anna, Emma, and Mr. Rasmus checked out Boston University. Then, after some awesome Boston pizza for dinner, the whole team headed to Fenway Park to catch a Boston Red Sox game. It was surreal to finally be sitting together in Boston after talking about our trip and and planning for so long. The first day was so much fun, but, wow, were we tired by the end of it!
Wednesday morning, we checked into our dorms at MIT. Despite dorm room horror stories, Baker House was perfect for housing us during EurekaFest. We absolutely loved checking out the MIT campus; it is seriously beautiful.
Later that day, six of us, plus Mr. Schab and Mr. Rasmus, headed back to Boston Harbor to go whale watching, while the rest of our team checked out the Boston Fine Arts Museum. It was a gorgeous three hour boat ride and we ended up seeing several different whales, which was super cool.
The team met back up later at Escape the Room, a mystery puzzle where groups have an hour to literally escape a room they are locked in using a set of clues. We held a competition in two rooms between the “Whales” and the “Smartest Artists”, but despite the Artists’ smarts, the Whales reigned victorious, completing the puzzle in just under an hour. After over a year of teamwork, we were well-versed in the art of working together. After testing our wits, we had a lovely team dinner at Ecco before heading back to our dorms for the evening.
On Thursday, we spent the morning checking out Harvard, from exploring the campus to getting lunch to stocking up on touristy sweatshirts to bring home. We also visited Boston Public Garden, where Good Will Hunting was filmed, and found the exact bench Robin Williams and Matt Damon sat on (it was so cool!!).
Then, we headed back to MIT for our official EurekaFest welcome! This was what we had been waiting for and it was so exciting to finally be in the presence of a lot of awesome, inspiring people. At dinner, we also got to check out what the undergraduate and graduate Student Prize winners had invented with the grant money from the Lemelson-MIT program, including Catalin Voss’s Autism Glass Project, a facial recognition software that aids children with autism in recognizing the emotions of people around them. This was just one of many unbelievably inspiring projects to see as young inventors.
Friday was the big day, and by how our feet felt by the end of it, it was definitely a marathon. We started out by presenting Project HANDL at the Stata Center at MIT to three other InvenTeams, InvenTeams master teachers, other educators, and representatives of the Lemelson-MIT program. We were definitely nervous, but all of our practice paid off and we gave a great presentation. It was unreal, not to mention humbling, to finally share Project HANDL with the immensely impressive people who made it all possible.
That afternoon was the InvenTeams Showcase, where we set up a table showing our prototypes (HANDL 2.0, 3.0, and 4.0) along with SolidWorks drawings, a video showing our work throughout the year, components of our project, and more information about Project HANDL. This was our best opportunity to speak one-on-one about our project, both to show what we had accomplished as well as to receive feedback about our design in the future. Again, speaking one-on-one with professionals we greatly look up to and admire was an unparalleled experience.
Friday night we met our teams for Saturday’s Design Challenge. For the next 24 hours, we learned to work on an entirely new team with InvenTeam members from all across the country. It was a different experience to say the least, but we learned a lot about working with new people, and had a lot of fun along the way! Our challenge was to build a wind-powered machine with materials like cardboard, coat hangers, and garbage bags that could hover three stories in the air ... while holding as many rubber ducks as possible. We had three hours to build before heading to Boston’s Museum of Science to test our devices. John’s team came out victorious, holding 250 rubber ducks in the air!
Winding down on Saturday night, we celebrated EurekaFest with a photo booth, popcorn, and The Martian on the MIT lawn. It was a perfect ending to a perfect weekend and a chance to reflect on our experience as an InvenTeam. It seems crazy that our official time as an InvenTeam has drawn to an end, but the memories, lessons, and friendships we have made will last a lifetime. This experience has been truly life-changing, from day one to EurekaFest to every early morning meeting, presentation, and build session in between. Through InvenTeams, our team learned so much about teamwork, problem solving, and perseverance, along with experiencing some of the most life-changing moments of our lives.
Thank you to the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams Program, first and foremost, for making Project HANDL a reality. Thank you to the Williamston Schools Foundation for helping us with fundraising from day one. Thank you to the STatewide Autism Resources and Training program, specifically the Williamston Chapter of Peer to Peer, for constant inspiration and encouragement. Thank you to our patent attorney Trent English for generously donating his time and expertise. Thank you to Bekum America Corporation for all of their assistance and willingness to construct our housing. Thank you to Michigan State University for all of the resources and help provided. Finally, thank you to our advisors: Mr. Rasmus, Mr. Kersten, and Mr. Schab. We are very lucky to have had such wonderful and constant guidance, leadership, and support.
Project HANDL is far from over, and we are so excited to see where it takes us in the future, from continuing to refine our device to learning about IEPs to hopefully eventually filing a patent. Thanks for sticking with us this year, and, as always, thanks for reading. This InvenTeam is out :)