group studied materials, looking for fabrics that were
insulating, durable, and water repellant. They built
and tested a prototype to see how the tent held up to
rain, friction, and puncture before settling on final
materials for a second prototype.
A third group focused their efforts on learning
about solar power. They hacked an existing product
to study how solar-powered devices functioned.
While researching the UV lights they planned to use
for disinfection, the group learned about the dangers
of human exposure to UV. As a result, the students
added two safety features to their design—an infrared
sensor that shuts off the UV lights if a person is
inside the tent and a countdown timer to let the tent
user know when it’s safe to go inside the tent. To
incorporate these features, the team had to learn how
to code a microcontroller called Arduino—drawing
from extensive research and input from experts.
In June 2017, the team presented their invention at
EurekaFest, an event at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology where young inventors showcase their
work. On a blog documenting their process, the girls
wrote, “We were never aware of how proud we are
making our community by helping create an
invention that’s directed to helping the homeless
population. Up to that moment, everything had felt
like a school project, but afterwards, it started to feel
like we were solving a real-world problem.” EL
Kim Greene ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior
associate editor of Educational Leadership.
Follow her on Twitter @kgreene26.
“People tap into what they
know. And this project is
a prime example of that.”
The project was not part of a particular class. The team
worked on the tent after school and on the weekends for
almost a year.