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Thu July 31, 2014
13 Year Old Invents To Save Lives
SciWorks Radio is a production of 88.5 WFDD and SciWorks, the Science Center and Environmental Park of Forsyth County, located in Winston-Salem.
Right in front of you is an invention. Your desk, the computer, your watch, the plate your breakfast is sitting on. The radio you’re listening to right now. Even the most basic items around us were invented. Though no one ponders the inception of the door knob when entering a room, we do tend to celebrate the giants who gave us things like light bulbs or mechanized automobile production. Necessity really is the mother of invention, and sometimes that need is a means to keep your coffee warm. Other times the need to save lives. That's where Chase Lewis from Raleigh, North Carolina, comes in. At age 13 he invented potentially life-saving technology, earning prizes and patents along the way.
Last year I entered in the Smithsonian/ePALS "Invent It Challenge.” The winner is given a patent application that makes your invention more attractive to potential manufacturers. There is a second major prize which is the peoples’ choice award in which people go and vote and the prize for that is a patent application.
Chase’s idea came from a deep concern for people in a completely different part of the world.
I originally got the idea when my mom sat my family down at the kitchen table and started reading aloud about the Somali famine of 2011, and how children were being left by the roadside to die because their parents could no longer carry them. In Africa the average family size is approximately four children and their mother can't carry four, often young children under the age of ten. So those children are forced to walk the two- to three-week or sometimes even month trek out of a country or to a refugee center. And either the oldest of the children are going to carry their younger siblings or sadly and actually often, children are left by the road side to die. When I heard about this I thought nobody should have to make such a decision, and so I set to work trying to find a solution.
Chase came up with the concept of the Rescue Travois, which was inspired by a kind of sled used by Native North Americans to carry goods.
The Rescue Travois is a medium-sized cart composed of three sticks with two of them joined at a central vertex and dragged behind a person which basically allows for an easy way to carry a large load over a long distance. The collapsible design would easily fit into a fairly flat and compact shipping box that could be air-dropped on refuge roads, even in countries that are hostile to aid giving groups.
Chase found the Rescue Travois could have practical and effective use beyond saving the lives of refugees.
The other application of the Rescue Travois is in sustenance farming. There is very, very little in the way of transportation of crops, which makes it very hard to harvest them. The ability to harvest more crops and carry more water would increase yield significantly, allowing for a rise from poverty or at least less malnourishment. The final application and possibly the most useful application of the Rescue Travois is use in carrying the sick and the elderly to doctors. In Africa, treks to doctors can be very, very dangerous. I know somebody from Chad who lost members of his family on the way to a doctor. One of them was in childbirth and she couldn't deliver the baby and so they tried to push her in a wheelbarrow. So they weren't able to move her very efficiently and she died on the way to the doctor. Also, his cousin was lost on the way to a doctor as well, after being bitten by a snake. In situations like this, the extra time afforded by an efficient wheel transportation system might have saved their lives.
Currently, Chase and his family are working on getting the Rescue Travois deployed in Africa. But he hasn’t rested there. Chase has come up with another potentially life saving device. This one shows that sometimes the simplest designs can be the most effective.
My second invention is a system to deliver smoke masks to the second stories of burning buildings. The people are given some way to shelter their lungs from the smoke for longer, allowing firefighters to come and rescue them. The system is a hollow football which snaps together in two halves and contains a smoke mask, a pair of goggles, to keep eyes clear, and a light source to draw attention to the projectile when it comes sailing through the window.
I haven't really done much in the way of inventing previously and it's the first time that I thought “huh, I can actually invent something. That's not just for Thomas Edison and other giants.”