Jonathan Hernandez was on the 2014 SOAR High School InvenTeam, located in Lancaster, Calif.
Hernandez and team member, Fanta Sinayoko, represented their InvenTeam at the 2015 White House Science Fair, where they presented and showcased their invention to President Obama. Lemelson-MIT recently caught up with Hernandez to find out where he is now and to reflect back on his InvenTeam experience.
Q: What was your InvenTeam invention?
My team and I created a low-cost blood-alcohol content detection bracelet. The accuracy of our invention, named ëris, is comparable to police-grade breathalyzers and can be modified for each state's individual alcohol content limit. For reference, ëris would have been around $4 to produce.
Q: Why did your InvenTeam want to invent this?
Initially the team wanted to produce a product that would have a meaningful impact in the community. With this in mind, we began to study the issues prevalent to communities at large. Strikingly so, we discovered driving-under-the-influence to be a recurring issue; this led to the creation of ëris. Ëris is meant to combat driving under the influence. The ultimate goal was to create a fashionable and accessible device that would aid in bringing a culture of responsible drinking.
Q: What was your role on the team?
I was a presenter and design-lead while on the team.
Q: What was your experience like working on an InvenTeam?
While on the InvenTeam I saw everyone scramble to his or her duties and often positions overlapped. The cohesiveness of the team was dynamic, allowing for a comprehensive background. In this sense, the team knew everything about the product. My personal experience was full of wonder, that students could tackle a large problem and be heard. Our voices echoed from the Antelope Valley to the White House; from this I learned that “voices need to be loud to be heard.”
Q: What are you doing now?
I'm a freshman at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) studying math and computer science. I'm interested in virtual reality and hope to create a startup involving virtual reality as I learn more. I haven't been at UCSD for very long but I plan on starting a professor-based speaker series and opening a startup.
Q: Did your InvenTeam experience inspire you in your educational path or future career goals? If so, how?
I am truly grateful for the Lemelson-MIT program. The one thing I can take away from the program that comes up often is our youth is capable of solidifying change. As I go through college, my vested interest in startups stems from the success of my own InvenTeam. Although, I could not fully immerse myself in the engineering part of ëris, I began to develop a curiosity. Prior to InvenTeams, I wanted to be a doctor, but after presenting and speaking to others about the engineering aspect of ëris, I changed my major to computer science.
In addition, having the experience to travel to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for EurekaFest (and later to the White House for the White House Science Fair) affected my view of how far I could succeed in my life. While my travels to the east coast were (and always will be) indebted to the hard work of my team, I realized the importance of producing a product to the world. Thus, I am determined to visit both places again, with a new invention in my name. That is what drives me in college today.
Q: Any advice you want to give a young inventor or future InvenTeam student?
Everything we do is a form of production, whether it’s the words we speak or the gestures we give. This inherently stamps our individual names onto every action; in this sense, we are already inventors. To all the young inventors, continue to tinker on. Be willing to embed your name onto your work, and be proud of what you are procuring.