Kids Slay Rockwell Automation Challenge

Earlier this year we highlighted Rockwell Automation’s “You Make It Challenge,” which taps young innovators for the next big ideas in technology and manufacturing. Rockwell Automation asks the next generation of builders and makers, ages 8-17, to share ways they would make the world work better. Submissions are judged on four main criteria: purpose, innovation, creativity and presentation. (See: “You Make It” Challenge Encourages Young Innovators).

Well, once again a bunch of kids have made me feel far inferior in the purpose, innovation and creativity departments. Three finalists have been named. Each finalist has been paired with a mentor from Rockwell Automation to help refine their ideas and prepare for the Perspectives event at Automation Fair in Chicago on November 19.

The first finalist, Michael Wilborne of Roanoke, Virginia, aims to provide sanitation for the world.

This concept is of particular interest to me because I am a member of Rotary International, which is a service organization that aspires to see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change – across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves. The very first service project in 1907 was the construction of public toilets in Chicago. I learned this tidbit of trivia during orientation into Rotary and it has stuck with me because it’s something I take for granted -- access to public toilets.

Wilborne apparently takes inspiration from this, too. His idea grew from learning about Microflush Toilets–dry toilets used in areas where water is scarce–which have been critical in decreasing deaths by disease around the world. Wilborne recognized that these toilets, which are cleaned out every two years, use a lot of concrete and require digging large holes in the ground. For smaller households, he designed an above-ground waste digester that can be cleaned out every three months and can even be used indoors. He hopes his design will give even more people access to toilets, which will help in preventing deadly diseases. (Watch his video)

Another finalist -- Louisa Wood of Bayside, Wisconsin -- also has an invention that is near and dear to me: a Sump Pump Overflow/Failure Prediction Program. My husband and I live in a flood zone and every time a hard rain hits we offer chants and gifts to the storm gods that our sump pump doesn't fail we don’t flood.

Wood recognized that sump pumps are critical in preventing expensive and dangerous damages caused by surface water flooding. She also knows that sump pumps have not changed significantly since the 1950s, and many are prone to failures and other issues that lead to flooding. So, she developed a solution involving an affordable IoT power sensor that monitors the activity of the pump, combined with machine learning and online local weather data to predict when a sump pump will overflow or fail. The owner is then notified so they can address the issue before it causes damage. This easy-to-implement solution can work with almost any existing sump pump and can help people in all situations from urban apartments to rural homes to large water treatment centers. (Watch her video).

And the third finalist, Makai Samuels-Paige of Atlanta, wins the award for turning a bad experience into positive innovation. His Anti-Bully Backpack includes a Wi-Fi camera that will record instances of bullying, with a goal of preventing bullying from happening. When asked why he created the Anti-Bully Backpack, Makai said he is a victim of bullying himself and he wants to put a stop to it for all kids. (Watch his video).

To check out all of the submissions, visit the You Make It Challenge web page.


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Traci Purdum is Chemical Processing’s Senior Digital Editor. She can’t help but quote Whitney Houston: “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” You can email her at tpurdum@putman.net