NJ InvenTeam Adjusts Efforts to Accommodate Safe Social Distancing Practices

With a spike of COVID-19 surging across many parts of the nation, InvenTeams are applying savvy, and yes inventive, solutions for working in safe, socially distant ways.
 

Boy spray painting

With a spike of COVID-19 surging across many parts of the nation, InvenTeams are applying savvy, and yes inventive, solutions for working in safe, socially distant ways. The Ridgewood High School InvenTeam from Ridgewood, NJ is one example of an InvenTeam who sprang into action with a well-thought-out plan for working on their invention during this challenging time.

Teachers Lillian Labowsky and John Wohner used their problem-solving skills to allow their students to safely begin work on their project. They decided to have the InvenTeam work outside in the high school parking lot, under a popup tent that they borrowed from the local Boy Scout troop. The teachers distributed PPE and allowed all students to participate in the use of fabrication equipment in a socially distanced and supervised way, during a 45-minute lunch period.

The InvenTeam is working on a reusable solar-aqua-tech water bottle that will use a system to generate hydrogen peroxide to sanitize the water. Labowsky and Wohner set up eight work stations under the tent and in the back of Mr. Wohner's van:

  • Station 1: PPE and sanitizer
  • Station 2: Deburr and filing 
  • Station 3: Drilling
  • Station 4: Degreasing and cleaning
  • Station 5: Spray painting
  • Station 6: H2O2 testing experiment
  • Station 7: Solar panel experiment
  • Station 8: Storage / disposal

After the students geared up with their masks, face shields, apron, and gloves, they excitedly went to work. It was the first time they got together in-person since March. It was quite emotional. They broke out in a laugh when a teacher driving by thought it was a COVID-19 testing center.

Collage of Ridgewood High School InvenTeam students working at stations outside

The majority of students had little to no fabrication experience. Most were wary of using a drill press or doing the H2O2 experiments because they worried about messing up. The teachers reminded them that mistakes are a part of the learning and inventing process. The most popular activity was spray painting the water bottles, despite the difficulty of applying the paint evenly without drips. Once again, Labowsky and Wohner encouraged students not to be afraid of making mistakes, especially considering they could easily re-paint the bottles if needed. They also encouraged students to help teach each one other and share knowledge of skills.

This extraordinary effort by the resourceful teachers and students of the Ridgewood High School InvenTeam shows what is possible in invention education and hands-on learning, even during a very “hands-off” period of time. In addition, the novel approach to working safely outdoors, was not only fun, but an incredible boost to the team’s morale.  

Elliot Ewell, the “drill press master,” pictured center of collage above, perhaps summed the day up best by commenting, “Fabrication day was a great opportunity to begin working on more concrete aspects of our project!” 

Thank you to Ridgewood High School InvenTeam manager, Patrick De Meulder for providing most of the content in this story.