The success of the 13th Annual Charles C. Gates Invention & Innovation Competition was clear as the awards ceremony ended. The problems that students had attempted to remedy were diverse, and the inventions they had developed were creative. But more importantly, as the cameras were shut off and the lights were dimmed, the students asked to take their projects with them, not so they could throw them away or stash them on a high shelf and forget about them; these students wanted to continue their work, improving their prototypes and refining their designs.
Due to the pandemic, the Gates Competition had to be organized a little differently this year. Instead of all students displaying their inventions in Turner Arena, the competition began with video recordings of one sixth-grade group, twenty-one seventh-grade groups, and three eighth-grade groups. From shock absorbers for tennis rackets to replaceable magnetic screens, from double decker tray tables to magnetic 3-ring binders, the students tackled a variety of problems and came up with unique solutions.
“All their ideas were impressive,” says Director of Gates Eric Escalante P’20,’22. “Their work has given them the opportunity to look at life from a different perspective and learn what it means to persevere, help others, and find satisfaction in the process.”
Since it was not possible to bring the Gates judges to campus to view the students’ inventions, the groups produced the promotional videos, sharing not only their final products but also the process they followed to get there. While some students did extensive research on products similar to theirs and figured out ways to improve upon the original, others asked consumers to test their prototypes and provide them with feedback. In their videos the students talked about both their successes and their failures and what they would do if given the chance to develop their product further. It’s a depth and breadth of knowledge that only comes from taking the time to understand all the angles of a problem and being all-in and invested in finding a solution.
“Their work has given them the opportunity to look at life from a different perspective and learn what it means to persevere, help others, and find satisfaction in the process.”Director of Gates Eric Escalante P’20,’22
Fortunately, the students had a supportive team of adults to help them along the way. “Gates coaches Ish Kalilou and Brady Leisenring ’98 were incredibly supportive of the students throughout the year,” says Mr. Escalante. “And Missy Escalante P’20,’22, John Burritt, and Jarrod Caprow have helped throughout the prototyping and filming process as well as with the development of the boys' speeches. Their partnership in this amazing program has been much appreciated!”
As the judges checked in from their homes throughout the U.S., they evaluated each product on its functionality, creativity, marketability, and patentability, as well as the students’ presentation. Eight projects were chosen by the judges to move on to the finals and participate in virtual question and answer sessions:
- Zheng “Justin” Gong ’23 and Mason Buchler ’23 - The Jam Dam
- Josh Tedeschi ’23 - Christmas Tree Pine Needle Collector
- Indy Grossbard ’23 and Sunghoon “Willy” Park ’23 - Bottle Buddies
- Mateo Escalante ’22 and Estyn Elkouh ’22 - The Shock Block
- Ethan Ellis ’24 and Ramsay Madan ’24 - Magnetical
- Mano Levine ’23 - Jump Board
- Hyun Jun “Jason” Ko ’23 and Kai Kinoshita ’23 - Quick Switch Headlight
- Asher Frankel ’23 - Tie Clip Sleeve
And, after a short interview with each contestant and much deliberation, the following awards were given:
- First Place - The Jam Dam by Zheng “Justin” Gong and Mason Buchler
- Second Place - Bottle Buddies by Indy Grossbard and Willy Park
- Third Place - The Shock Block by Estyn Elkouh and Mateo Escalante
- Best Salesmanship and Presentation - Magnetical by Ethan Ellis and Ramsay Madan
- Best Salesmanship and Presentation - Bottle Buddies by Indy Grossbard and Sunghoon “Willy” Park
- Market Research Award - Christmas Tree Pine Needle Collector by Josh Tedeschi
- Patent Nod - The Jump Board by Mano Levine
Chances are that this is not the last we will see of many of these products. While the Gates program is over for the summer, many of these boys will continue their work on their products returning to school in the fall with fresh ideas and new approaches, ready to develop new prototypes and find lasting solutions.