Pike Central High School Students Present at White House Science Fair

A team of three very lucky Project Lead The Way students from Pike Central High School in Petersburg, Ind., are in Washington, D.C. today to present their original invention to President Barack Obama. Students Jessica D’Esposito, Colton Newton, and Anna Woolery are among a select group from across the United States—just over 100 students from 45 states.

The proud students, accompanied by instructor Ray Niehaus and Principal LeAnne Kelley, are showcasing an emergency shelter they designed and developed in their Project Lead The Way engineering courses. The shelter is extremely lightweight yet durable and folds down into a compact kit that can be air dropped into disaster-stricken areas and assembled on the ground. The waterproof shelter includes a water purification system that uses carbon to kill bacteria.

“What made us want to do this were the earthquakes in Haiti,” one of the students told the President. “We started doing research and realized how many people could use these shelters.”

After Haiti’s earthquake, the students got to work and developed the first prototype within six months. Thanks to a grant, the students improved upon their design, taking it to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology competition last summer and winning the first place prize.

“So what’s going to happen next?” the President asked the students. They answered that they are hoping a company will take on their design.

The invention actually is under review by various national and international relief agencies which are considering the invention as part of their relief efforts. The cost of the shelter is approximately $600, comparable to the tents currently used in relief efforts, the students told President Obama.

The students, along with Niehaus and Kelley, were sworn to secrecy. All called in sick to school yesterday and today, telling no one of their destination. Pike Central Secretary Pep Young told Project Lead The Way, “I’ve worked for Ms. Kelley for 12 years, and she didn’t even tell me where she was going. When we found out this morning, we announced it to our staff. We are all just so proud of these students. This is something they’ll remember the rest of their lives.”