PLTW Students Create Shelter for Disaster Victims

Clifton Park, NY (June 13, 2011) - What do the victims of disasters like the tornado that devastated Joplin, Mo; the tsunami that resulted in Japan’s nuclear disaster; and last year’s earthquake that killed tens of thousands in Haiti have in common?

All could benefit from an invention by Indiana Project Lead The Way (PLTW) students -- an 8'x5' portable disaster relief shelter with ventilation and water-filtration systems and rooftop solar panel for interior lighting – plus four sleeping bunks. The shelter, which is already being manufactured by Dove Mfg., KCARC, in Vincennes, IN, is the brainchild of Indiana’s Pike Central High School PLTW engineering and biomedical sciences students and is making its first public appearance at MIT in Cambridge, Mass. on Thursday.

Pike Central PLTW students will showcase their humanitarian invention at the Lemelson-MIT EurekaFest from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. June 16 in the Kirsch Auditorium (Bldg. 32-123) of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Stata Center in Cambridge, Mass. Pike Central High School is a PLTW school, one of four that PLTW schools that will showcase inventions at MIT’s Lemelson event. Also in the house: North High School (Omaha, NE); Northbrook High School (Houston, TX); and Green Bay Southwest High School (Green Bay, WI). (See inventions below.)

PLTW is a national, non-profit organization and is the largest provider of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education curriculum programs used in middle and high schools nationwide, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. PLTW’s STEM courses complement traditional math and science classes, usually acting as electives although increasingly being used to fulfill science and technology credits in some states.

InvenTeams are teams of high school students, teachers, and mentors who receive grants of up to $10,000 each to invent technological solutions to real-world problems. The Lemelson-MIT Program is administered by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). It’s an initiative that’s ready-made for PLTW’s project-based curriculum.

“The InvenTeam initiative dovetails nicely with the PLTW program because solving authentic problems is the foundation of engineering and biomedical sciences programs, as evidenced by the projects that have emerged from them,” said Richard Grimsley, PLTW Vice President for Programs. “In the capstone Engineering Design and Development (EDD) and Biomedcial Innovation (BI) courses students visualize a problem they want to solve and then brainstorm solutions. They gather information and focus their investigation on a solution for a problem they see in their communities. In many ways, for PLTW students humanitarian projects are the next Sputnik.”

All together, 13 schools will showcase their inventions at MIT’s EurekaFest. The following four PLTW schools are among them:

PLTW School: Pike Central High School (Petersburg, IN) invented a lightweight, portable disaster relief shelter that costs less than $500 to produce, includes a water and air purification system and a renewable energy power source for a LED light and can be air dropped to reach remote locations. Team coach: Ray Niehaus, PLTW teacher.
PLTW School: North High School (Omaha, NE) invented a cook stove with that’s already being used in Madagascar. It’s safer (no open fire) and features a grinder and press for creating “briquettes” that use renewable resources. Team coach: Lee Kallstrom, PLTW teacher.
PLTW School: Northbrook High School (Houston, TX) invented an energy efficient cooling blanket for personal use. It’s designed to replace a central or window air conditioning unit, will reduce the consumer’s energy bill as well as his or her carbon footprint. Team coach: Bhavna Rawal, Physics.
PLTW School: Green Bay Southwest High School (Green Bay, WI) invented a portable hydroelectric supply station that’s lighter and more efficient and will bring reliable power to remote villages. Team coach: Ryan Freude, PLTW teacher.
PLTW schools Pike Central and North High School will give live presentations to an MIT audience on Thursday.

Oftentimes, students are inspired by crises they see happening in the world. The earthquake last year in Haiti prompted the idea for the disaster relief shelter, said Ray Niehaus, Pike Central’s PLTW teacher.

Every year, students push the envelope, and this year is no different. Leigh Estabrooks is MIT’s invention education officer: “This could be pretty big,” she said of the shelter. “It’s an invention that's destined to help people pretty quickly,” she said.