When Mairi, a third-grader, was asked to solve a health care problem as part of a school assignment, she thought of her grandmother.
Mairi’s grandmother was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease affecting the nerve cells that control voluntary muscle movement. Watching her grandmother struggle to communicate made Mairi want to find a way to make her grandmother’s life easier.
So Mairi and three of her third grade classmates at the British International School of Houston—Anaïs, David and Sophie—conceived Eye Help You, a computer that helps ALS patients communicate through eye movements.
The device would include eye-tracking technology that sends information to a caregiver. The third-graders even researched similar products and found that those on the market only used letters. They decided their device would need to have full commands using words and pictures.
Mairi and her team pitched their idea to an audience of supporters at the TMC Young Inventors Forum in June. The product was so innovative that judges gave the team the “Degree of Impact” trophy.
For the past three years, the British International School of Houston and the Texas Medical Center have partnered on the TMC Young Inventors Forum, a six-week program that teaches 7- and 8-year-old students the fundamentals of innovation and basic health care problems. The students work in teams; each team identifies a problem and devises a solution.
To cap off the program each year, the students visit the TMC Innovation Institute, and each team pitches its health care solutions to parents, teachers and a panel of judges made up of community leaders.
“This is exciting because we started this program not just for fun, but because invention and entrepreneurship are skills that should be learned early on in life,” said William McKeon, president and CEO of the Texas Medical Center. “Every child can be a CEO of a company, and every child can have an idea that is a breakthrough.”
This year’s forum also saw some returning students. Eight teams of fifth-graders—the same students who participated in the inaugural Young Inventors Forum—returned to pitch brand-new ideas and showcase an advanced level of entrepreneurship. The fifth-graders added financial information to their products, including cost, profit margins and pricing.
The judges panel included Julia Andrieni, M.D., vice president of population health and primary care at Houston Methodist Hospital and president and CEO of Houston Methodist Physicians’ Alliance for Quality; Karen Bell, consul general of the United Kingdom; Houston City Council members Dwight Boykins and Amanda Edwards; and Bernard Harris, M.D., CEO of Vesalius Ventures.
The way of the future
The curriculum for the TMC Young Inventors Forum was developed by Katharine Forth, Ph.D., CEO of TMCx alumni company iShoe, which creates products that measure and track balance.
As an entrepreneur, Forth feels that every child should have an education around invention and innovation. When her son was a third-grader at the British International School, she created the program.
Forth plans the curriculum with teachers at the school, including Kate Fuller, head of the primary grades.
“We asked the students to come up with a list of problems that have to do with health care and then come up with solutions,” Fuller said. “Of course, we get an abundance of solutions for broken limbs because that is what they know, but we work with them to think deeper.”
The goal is for the children to form teams around a passion for a particular problem, rather than simply work with their friends, Forth said. In order to devise a solution, each team researches their problem and talks to people they know who are affected by it. Then, every team writes an executive summary of their findings, explains how their solution can solve the problem, and designs a pitch.
One of the things Forth looks for is that “certain light in their eye,” which is how she knows a child has caught the “inventing bug.”
“It’s awesome,” Forth said. “You can see that sparkle. That is the magic of this curriculum.”
Every student who participated in the TMC Young Inventors Forum walked away with a medal, a goody bag and a T-shirt, but judges awarded trophies in five categories:
Students came up with the Drive-Me Chair, a self-driving wheelchair that works off of a smartphone.
Degree of Impact
Eye Help You is a computer that would help ALS patients communicate through eye movements.
The Sunshine Cast is a cast that helps absorb vitamin D.
Strength of Pitch
Students devised a Staying Alive T-shirt that shows the proper hand placement for CPR.
Quality of Prototype
The Fluffy Crutch Helper makes crutches softer and more comfortable to use.
4.26, noon-3 p.m.: @MethodistHosp San Jacinto Hospital Hiring Event for experienced RNs. Learn more: https://t.co/4v7r2jpdTP https://t.co/pVFG8AmsG4
MD Anderson Cancer Center@MDAndersonNews
RT @CancerFrontline: An @MDAndersonNews team developed a personalized vaccine that exposes evasive colorectal cancer to an immune attack ht…
Discover world-class career opportunities for experienced RNs at the Houston Methodist San Jacinto Hospital hiring event on 4.26 from noon-3 p.m. Bring several copies of your resume & park free in the visitor parking lot. Learn more: http://pxlme.me/1JA7A6zf
University of Houston@UHouston
RT @UHCougarMGolf: .@UHouston alum & @CBSSports broadcasting great Jim Nantz reacts to being named 2018 Ambassador of Golf CONGRATS, Jim,…
Sneezing, headaches and a stuffy nose always means you have allergies right? Wrong! https://t.co/wf8ti3TKVw
Baylor College of MedicineBaylorCollegeOfMedicine
Congratulations to Dr. Yingbin Fu on earning the Helen Juanita Reed Award for Macular Degeneration from the BrightFocus Foundation.
New Mexico Veterans set sights on Golden Age Games competition - Volunteers needed for 32nd annual event in Albuquerque https://t.co/gS2J3VC4HZ via @Sports4Vets on #VAntagePoint
Telehealth education is on the move in Colorado https://t.co/KgB6D7Xt37 via @KREX5_Fox4
It's a new day at your Manchester VA https://t.co/lDrYdgumuw via @seacoastonline
How can you make the last day of class even better? Bring some cute animals to campus! 🐰
Did you know #stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and leading cause of disability in the U.S.? Come to our Stomp Out Stroke Festival from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. on Sat., April 28 @DiscoveryGreen to find out how to decrease your stroke risk. Register at https://t.co/PBNoFVY455. https://t.co/sYm9Ny734p
RT @UTHealthSPA: FYI >>> NIH Funding Opportunities and Notices for April 20, 2018 https://t.co/VXvK9WVKy4 #grant #grants #research
RT @uthpsychiatry: The UTHealth Center of Excellence on Mood Disorders is conducting a new clinical research study for adults with schizoph…
U.S. Department of Veterans AffairsVeteransAffairs
Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Navy Veteran Tammie Jo Shults. Tammie Jo served for 10 years as a pilot and earned the rank of lieutenant commander. Tammie Jo grew up on a New Mexico ranch near Holloman Air Force Base where she developed her interest in flying. She attended MidAmerica Nazarene University, graduating in 1983. A year after taking the Navy aviation exam, Tammie Jo found a recruiter who processed her application. She attended officer candidate school in Pensacola, Florida, and was assigned to a training squadron at Naval Air Station Chase Field in Beeville, Texas. Tammie Jo was an instructor pilot, teaching students how to fly the Navy T-2 trainer. She later flew the A-7 Corsair in Lemoore, California. Tammie Jo was among the first female fighter pilots for the Navy and was the first woman to fly an F/A-18 Hornet. In 1993, after 10 years of service, she left the Navy. Earlier this week, Tammie Jo completed the successful emergency landing of Southwest flight 1380 at the Philadelphia International Airport. The Boeing 737-700 lost an engine, causing shrapnel to strike a window. With 148 people on board, one woman died and seven were injured. Thank you for your service, Tammie Jo.
TAMU Health Sciences@TAMHSC
We are proud to "Teal Out" in support of #StepInStandUp! Even one such incident is too many. https://t.co/NQdJ5UyHkA