Cardigan Mountain School A boarding and day school for boys in grades 6 through 9
Two Gates Invention and Innovation inventors demonstrate their product for a faculty member

Gates Invention & Innovation Program 

Boys who are doing are boys who are learning, and there is no better example of that idea at Cardigan than the Gates Invention & Innovation Program and Competition. 

Gates is a year-long class that teaches creative thinking, risk-taking, and entrepreneurial spirit while developing an appreciation for hard work and accomplishment. Beginning each fall, each student or student team is charged with designing and building a prototype of an invention that performs a practical function, makes life easier or safer, entertains, or solves an everyday problem.

Group photo of all participants in the 2023 Gates Competition at Cardigan Mountain School

A record 51 inventions were showcased in this year's competition. With so many creative and innovative solutions to everyday problems, it was a tough year to be a judge!

The Charles C. Gates Competition

Throughout the winter, the Gates student inventors tinker with and refine their prototypes. As spring nears, they refine their marketing materials and perfect their sales pitches for the Charles C. Gates Invention & Innovation Competition, held annually during Spring Family Weekend. Every student or team must present their idea, prototype, and market analysis to a panel of expert judges, who identify a pool of finalists from which they then select the winners.

Prizes are awarded for:

  • First, Second, and Third Place
  • Best Salesman
  • Best Market Research 
  • Ideas and designs that seem particularly promising to the judges are awarded the prestigious "Patent Nod."

2023 Gates Competition Photos

Video Highlights: 2023 Gates Competition



Cross-curricular connections are critical to true experiential learning. It is in these moments of academic cross-pollination that a student’s world expands.


The Gates Program in the News

Cardigan's Gates Competition

It’s just before 9:00 a.m. on the Friday of Spring Family Weekend. The sixth and seventh graders in the Gates Program have been working toward this moment for five months––researching their ideas, developing prototypes, and refining their marketing plans.

Patent illustrations

It’s often the case that as a young person grows up, their passions and interests change as they learn new skills, develop relationships with different people, and encounter different life experiences. That has not been the case with Ben Ely ’21; he’s been an inventor as long as he can remember.

Interested to learn more about Cardigan for your son? The first step is to click the button below.

How to Apply

The Charles C. Gates Invention & Innovation Competition is an academic and afternoon program offering at Cardigan made possible by the Gates Frontiers Fund.

Who takes Gates?

All Cardigan sixth and seventh graders take Gates, and eighth and ninth graders can add it as an elective if their schedule allows.

Illustration of the launch cycle of a new invention

The Launch Cycle

Cardigan's Gates Program teaches students each step in the launch cycle as they learn to persevere through challenges to develop their product.

Gates Expo

2022 Competition

Cardigan’s inventors present their projects to the community at the 2022 Gates Invention & Innovation Competition Exposition 

See the Photos