Hi everyone! We are the Dow High School InvenTeam. Since this is our first blog post, we want to take some time to introduce ourselves and our invention. First, there are seven members in our team: five seniors, one junior, one freshman. We have known each other since middle school and are thrilled to be collaborating to innovate a moisture-sensitive drain cover that will make a positive impact in our community.
We have been meeting over zoom to discuss what we have done since our last meeting, and also what we need to work on in the near future. This helps us stay connected and on track, even when we can't work together face to face.
Inspiration for our innovation transpired when our team member Caleb reflected on his experience with sewer gas emissions and pesky mosquito presence. We realized both issues could be addressed at drainage entry points with a smart drain cover. Looking locally, we discovered that a similar issue existed in a nearby city, Bay City, MI, due to the 100 year old drainage system. Due to this local need, we decided to pursue the invention of a Moisture-Actuated Drain Cover (MADC).
Our team has made contact with SAT Plating in regards to acquiring more sulfonated plastic, which is the key component to our invention. We asked for a variety of polymers to be sulfonated, in order to test the effectiveness of each. It has taken longer for us to receive the plastic since this company has been prioritizing with medical contracts due to COVID. While we wait for this material, we have been focusing on meeting with mentors, like the drain commissioner, and planning experiments once the plastic arrives.
In early October, our local newspaper, Midland Daily News, published an article about our InvenTeam opportunity. We reached out to the newspaper as a first step to building a relationship with our community. In the future, we will continue our partnership with Midland Daily News and create follow-up articles as a way to inform the community of our progress. This will hopefully broaden our network of potential sponsors and mentors throughout the invention process.
Meeting with the drain commissioner
On November 23, part of our team met with the drain commissioner of Midland to examine the drain we would be specifically designing our drain cover for. This was a great opportunity to get a better understanding of the materials and construction of the drain to educatedly move forward with the development process. The drain commissioner offered to send a clean drain grate to our team so that we can work with real materials while testing and optimizing the MADC.
An unexpected benefit of the meeting was a contact with a representative of East Jordan, the company that manufactures the steel drainage grates that are used in Midland. Communicating with this company may open doors to new methods of attaching our device onto existing drains.
Our main focus in the beginning of the innovation process is creating and testing our initial prototype. Once we receive the necessary materials from SAT Plating, our research and technical leads will collaborate and run a series of experiments, to evaluate the effectiveness of our initial drain cover. This will help guide us to make necessary adjustments and improvements to the design.
In regards to the frame for our drain cover, we are planning to communicate finalized designs with the CAD teacher at our high school. He has experience and access to the machines that are capable of cutting a solid sheet of plastic into the frame that will be the structure for our drain cover.
Although the process has been slow up to this point, we are anxious to start putting our plans into action. We look forward to starting the R&D process, and connecting with mentors and sponsors in the community in the coming months.
Written by Abigail Ahn and Zoe Angell.