While their fellow students sit in class, heads bent over textbooks, a small group of students in Debra Crane's pre-engineering program at Galt High School are engaged in the act of inventing.
Sometimes that means building a simple machine from nothing more than a battery, duct tape and a pile of scraps. Other times, it means coming up with an invention that could somehow aid mankind.
A small group of male students in Crane's class recently took on a formidable challenge - designing a portable door-opening device for a national competition run in part by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"It was an experience of a lifetime," said Galt High junior Mariano Garcia, one of about 15 team members who spent months working on the design and writing an application for a grant to actually build the project.
The Lemelson-MIT InventTeams grant offers high school students a chance to win up to $10,000 toward the production of an invention idea that has been pitched to a panel of science and math professionals.
Starting last spring, the group of Galt High students got to work. When they were done, they had designed a portable door-opening device that could be used by people in wheelchairs.
The work was hard, said senior Mitchel Lane, one of the team members who helped research the idea and plan the final design.
"We were learning, and we were having fun just doing it," Lane said of the hands-on experience.
The group made it to the semi-finals of the competition, but learned just last week they would not be moving into the finals. A little down-hearted, but not defeated, many of the students vowed next year's design would be even better.
"This time, I think, it was like a test," he said excitedly. "Hopefully next year we can make it and really do something."
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