HARRIS' HEROES

Student inventors help Scott Key employees

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As part of a national competition, six young inventors set out to help other young people with disabilities.

They went to the Scott Key Center in Frederick, which hires people with development disabilities to do things like hand-wash rain water collection barrels produced at the center.

"It's a big barrel so it was hard for them to maneuver around it because of their disabilities," says 11th grader Neel Deshmukh.

So, Brian Liu, Neel Deshmukh and Jessica Law invented the "rain barrel cradle."

With some PVC pipe and four small wheels, their $18 invention for the employees is priceless.The device holds and stabilizes a rain barrel while an employee cleans or attaches parts during the assembly process. The device was designed for employees with cognitive disabilities and traumatic brain injuries and has allowed 80 additional of the 120 employees at the Scott Key center to perform the job.

See a video of it here.

Ryan Cho, Dennis Levin and Carlos Gonzales invented something for employees who package boxes of tea. So they designed the "tea packaging device."

"We saw many employees with developmental disabilities struggling to count out the number of tea packets which have to go in the box," Levin says.

The device is a hit with employees. The Tea-Packaging Device enables efficient packaging of tea packets by employees. The device is an accordion- shaped guide insert that uses color coding and automatic arrangements for employees to pack the tea bags

See a video of it here.

The employees get paid by how much work they get done and with the students' inventions their productivity has skyrocketed and they're actually making more money.

"A smile just came on his face and he was doing it much more quickly and he was telling everyone, 'look how much faster I can do it. This is great,'" Levin says.

The national award these six students won was the annual AbilityOne Design Challenge. The nationwide competition encourages high school students to develop assistive technologies that empower people with disabilities to break through barriers in the workplace.

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