Many innovative health care solutions come through the Texas Medical Center, but, this week, inventions sprang from the creative minds of students at the British International School of Houston.
For four years, the school and the Texas Medical Center have collaborated on the TMC Young Inventors Forum, a six-week program that teaches students ages 7 and 8 the fundamentals of innovation and basic health care problems. The students work in teams to identify problems and devise solutions.
“Innovation is a critical component in education,” said William McKeon, president and CEO of the Texas Medical Center.
There are plans to expand the program to the Houston Independent School District, the largest public school system in Texas, to make the curriculum available to more students, he said.
This year, members of 22 teams put on their thinking caps to solve everyday health care problems. Some addressed areas of personal experience—like a dog that had sarcoma or a grandmother who can’t see well—and others chose areas because they wanted to learn more about a certain disease.
The curriculum for the TMC Young Inventors Forum was developed by Katharine Forth, Ph.D. She is the CEO of TMCx alumni company Zibrio, which creates products that measure and track balance.
At the end of the program, the students visit the TMC Innovation Institute where each team pitches its health care solutions to parents, teachers and a panel of judges comprised of community leaders.
“This is my favorite time of year,” said Andrew Derry, principal of the British School. “I adore what happens when you give them free reign to invent, fail, pivot and fail again. When you listen to them, you don’t realize that these are 7- and 8-year-olds.”
Judges included William “Billy” Cohn, M.D., vice president of Johnson & Johnson Medical Device Cos.; Harris Eyre, M.D., chief medical officer of CNSDose; Beverly Jurenko, vice chair of the Harvard Business School Houston Alumni Angels; Sarah Michael, director of business development at the Baylor Global Innovation Program; and Justin Oakes, co-founder and pilot at DroneWorks.
The judges ranked the teams on strength of their pitches as well as the impact, innovativeness, quality and marketability of the prototypes.
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:
Lump Alert – a scale connected to a mirror that helps to reveal potentially cancerous lumps.
Epilepsy Sensor Cap – an electron-blaster hat that helps with epilepsy symptoms.
Blood Sugar Scanner – a wearable device that measures glucose levels in sweat.
Tissue-tastic – an artificial-tissue-in-box to help with ACL tears.
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Essential Scents – an inhaler with essential oils.
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