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September 28, 2023

Local students heading to national Invention Convention

It’s no secret that traffic around Ceiba College Preparatory Academy can get heavy at the beginning and end of the school day, when hundreds of parents drop off and pick up their children and scores of students brave the intersections and walkways on foot.

School officials say they are working to address the issues, which includes bolstering pedestrian safety.

With this real-world problem as her inspiration, a sixth-grade student has come up with her own solution.

Alyssa Workman-Torres, 11, has created a remote-controlled robot to serve as a crossing guard.

Her creation, called “Safe Pedestrian,” won top honors during the Invention Convention at her school earlier this year, and at the statewide event in Sacramento on May 5, where her creation went toe-to-toe with 335 inventors from 80 school and after school programs.

Success there earned her a trip to the Raytheon Technologies Invention Convention U.S. Nationals at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Michigan from June 7-9.

Alyssa says her creation took about a month, a process that began with disassembling a remote-control car, attaching it to the body and refining the robot’s balance.

Her father Jose Torres says she received no help with the idea and little technical assistance. Better still, there are no devices like it, making it marketable.

The result, Alyssa says, is a large white boxlike machine that rolls into crosswalks to stop traffic before anyone crosses.

“I was scared crossing the road a lot, but I always had somebody to help me, because some cars don’t make eye contact like they’re supposed to do,” she says. “They’re always on their phone.”

The trip to Michigan will be Alyssa’s first time on a plane. Once there, she will join hundreds of young inventors from across the U.S. 

“This is a huge achievement for her, coming up with this idea, which I think is much needed in the community to keep students and people in the community safe,” says Alyssa’s mother Shayna Workman. “It’s cool that she’s getting recognition for her project.”

Alyssa is one of 79 students from California to go to the invitation-only event, and one of 18 from Santa Cruz County.

Gateway School fifth-grader Asher Snitzer-Beck says he created InjectCare Kit to allay kids’ fears of getting shots.

The kit includes a handout to help parents talk to their children about vaccines and lidocaine numbing cream to numb the injection site.

It also includes an InjectiCare Critters, also called a PuppyPal to be worn at the injection site. These contain a gel cold pack that further numbs the skin. 

“All the doctor needs to do is lift-up the tongue, swab the area with alcohol, and give the shot,” Asher said in his explanation.

Pacific Collegiate School junior Jack Driscoll-Natale invented H20 Monitoring For All, which continuously monitors water for three key water health parameters—pH, Oxygen Reduction Potential, and Temperature—and uploads the data to Driscoll-Natale’s free website every 10 seconds.

It contains a rechargeable-solar circuit and costs less than $300 in materials, making it more affordable than other similar systems. 

“Overall, my device and website can serve as a ‘canary in the water’ alerting the public to real time trends and threats to water health,” he says.

Ceiba sixth-grade science teacher Athena Raney says that the event allows students to showcase their creativity.

It is extremely important to have students from every community to represent their ideas.

“This is what it takes to make sure that we can allow our students to not only critically think, but to share their ideas,” she says. “This is just part of our academics; a part of what I know in the workforce that we need in our students.”

And the mission to mix invention with science classes appears to be gaining steam.

Last year, roughly 8,000 young people attended the California Invention Convention. This year, that number reached 22,000, says California Invention Convention organizer Brenda Payne.

That increase comes in part to the efforts of her company Lemelson-MIT, whose stated mission is to teach young people to solve problems through invention and innovation.

“Everyone has problems and we want these kids to be the ones who will solve them,” Payne says. “I believe that kids need to be creative to solve the problems we’ve created for them.”

Other local students attending national event:

Alianza Charter School

• Liana Aguilar: The Liana Pillow Boop, a travel pillow that holds headphones in place

• Celso Salinas-Holz: The Hiker Finder, a tool that allows hikers to use chalk to help them find their way

• Natiri Yerena: Hands-free leash holder, a hand brace with a strap that can attach to a leash

Bradley Elementary

• Kyle Barnard and Madison Moules: Carbrella, magnetically attaches to car door to protect people from rain

• Kristopher Bayog: “D” Medbox, a medication box with personalized voice alarms and an app that reads medication bottles aloud

• Austin Pieracci: Blue Brush, an automatically extending brush to clean home plate during games

Gateway School

• Aarav Patel-Checkpak: A backpack that reminds owner to check that they packed everything they need, and helps locate lost items

Main Street Elementary

• Livia Rinaldi and Bethany Robles: Power Powder, an environmentally friendly solution to speed up composting

Vine Hill Elementary School

• Robyn Pitterling: The No Scrunching 3000, a tool for writing, drawing and erasing on paper.

Watsonville Charter School of the Arts

• Gianna Pozzi-Loyola: Boot-iful, a stylish cover for medical walking boots

• Kylie Maldonado: Mega Mag, uses a magnetic strip in a remote-controlled car to remove metals from areas such as auto shops and garages.

• Xenia Sherwood: The Pure Pet Portal, a pet door designed to clean pets as they come in and out.



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