Six central Ohio students, including a Dominion Middle School seventh-grader, earned awards for science projects they had presented at the fourth annual Invention Convention U.S. Nationals competition May 29-31 at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Michigan.

The program is open to students in grades K-12, who work to identify a project, research and design a prototype, then build and test it and create a pitch, said Abby Fisher, programming director with the Invention League.

The Invention League is a state affiliate of the National Invention Convention, Fisher said. Ohio also holds a state convention every year, she said. This year, 65 Ohio students competed in the U.S. Nationals competition and earned 14 awards. More than 500 students nationwide competed, according to information provided by the Invention League.

Inventors from grades K-12 who have entered affiliate member competitions or STEMIE's Independent Inventor or School Programs and won an invitation to the event are eligible to take part in the national competition, according to the National Invention Convention's website. Competition is open to both individual and team competitors.

The process helps students think of themselves as researchers, designers and engineers, Fisher said. They build their confidence as they explain their projects to others.

"Students find and identify in themselves skills that they didn't previously recognize," Fisher said.

The program is fully funded by donors, according to its website. For more information, visit

The Invention League's stated mission is "to inspire curiosity, confidence and creative problem-solving in our youth and advance invention and entrepreneurial education."

Judges evaluate students on their invention process, a board they complete illustrating their project, and the pitch the students give the day of the competition, Fisher said.

The winning entrants from central Ohio are Samrithy Blaji of Dublin, Makiyla Carrico of north Columbus, Katharine Johnson of Bexley, Lia McMillan of west Columbus, Madison Twyford of Galena and Zora Womack of Gahanna.

Samrithy Balaji

It was Samrithy Balaji's first time participating in the Invention Convention, and she came away with a first-place award for her grade level in the program's national competition.

Samrithy, an 8-year-old Dublin resident who will enter third grade at Thomas Elementary School this year, participated in the fourth annual Invention Convention U.S. Nationals competition May 29-31 alongside more than 500 other students.

Her invention is called "DAS: De-Acidification of Industry Water System."

Samrithy began her project, which focuses on the deacidification of industrial water, when she was 6 years old, participating in the Dublin Invention League at Karrer Middle School in April 2019.

She was inspired by learning about pollution and its negative effect on the earth -- specifically, damaging acid water.

Samrithy's father, Pedhati Balaji, said he initially thought his daughter's curiosity about acid water would be nothing more than a passing interest. But she kept talking about it. Soon, Samrithy and her father both were reading about the negative effects acid water has on the environment, such as killing fish. Samrithy began researching solutions.

"She took it very seriously," Pedhati said.

The family learned about the Invention Convention through Samrithy's school, Pedhati said.

Samrithy considered multiple ways of addressing acid water before settling on baking soda, she said.

"I had many different ideas at first," she said.

Evaporation condensation would have been expensive and time-consuming, she said, so she considered vinegar. But vinegar, she said, still caused a considerable amount of acid to be left in water when mixed with wastewater.

Her last idea was baking soda, she said. Her family uses it for food, and it reacts quickly. She tried it out, and the baking soda's pH level of 8 worked well to safely neutralize the water.

For reference, pH is a scale used to determine how acidic or basic a water-based solution is. Pure water has a pH of 7, meaning it's neither acidic nor basic, according to information from the U.S. Geological Survey.

The byproducts that her baking-soda process creates, such as salt, carbon dioxide and water, are safe for the environment, Pedhati said.

At the school level, Samrithy's project won an award for best communication and marketing, and she was able to move to the state level, where she earned a Best Industry Sector award in the earth and geology category, qualifying her for the national level.

When she learned that her project had earned first place in her grade level at the national competition, she was "really excited," Samrithy said.

When she attended the national competition, she became inspired by other projects she had seen there and started considering what project she wanted to do this year, she said.

The entire experience offered a good opportunity to learn about something beyond what was in Samrithy's routine school curriculum, Pedhati said, and he learned with her.

Pedhati said he also noticed an improvement in the way his daughter communicates with others. Her stage presence, he said, has improved greatly.

"She came out of her shell," he said.

-- Sarah Sole/ThisWeek


Makiyla Carrico

An 11-year-old Columbus City Schools girl who was trying to help her grandfather receive the lifesaving insulin he needs has been honored for her work as a young inventor.

Makiyla Carrico's reconstruction of an insulin pin earned her an Edison Ward, along with a $2,500 college scholarship, at the 2018 Ohio State Fair. That honor got her an invitation to the Invention Convention U.S. Nationals competition. There, she won the Best Blend of Design and Engineering Speciality Award.

In effect, Makiyla, who will be in seventh grade at Dominion Middle School, had found a design flaw in the insulin syringe, she said. As insulin is pushed into a dial, which is attached to a needle, the rounded vial and flat plunger can cause 20-30 units of insulin to be left behind, she said.

Using her product, called "You Can Get It All," the plunger could save one diabetic 720 units per year, she said.

"In order to find out a way to fix the problem, we had to fully take apart the syringe ... to make the plunger more effective," said Makiyla, who lives in north Columbus with her father, Michael Carrico, and mother, Brittiany Peecher.

Makiyla said she has an analytical mind, enjoys science and math and hopes to become a veterinarian. She said her friends are a little envious of her, adding it's a good, but unusual, place to be.

Peecher said the family has received some patent counseling but decided against pursuing it for the time being because of cost.

Makiyla said a patent is not necessarily her goal. Her primary objective at this point, she said, is to testify before Congress to get improvements made in insulin-delivery devices.

Peecher, a multiskilled technician at Mount Carmel St. Ann's, said her daughter is shy by nature and not a self-promoter. However, the attention she has received has brought her out of her shell, she said.

"It has just really gotten her to trust herself," Peecher said. "Even if that's as far as we get with it, we're very thankful -- and we'll have a very large scrapbook for her."

-- Gary Seman Jr./ThisWeek


Katharine Johnson

Katharine Johnson, who will be a third-grader at Bexley City Schools' Cassingham Elementary School, placed third nationally in her grade level at the fourth annual Invention Convention U.S. Nationals.

Katie, who was a second-grader at the time of the competition, said the idea for her "Weather Chair" developed when she watched YouTube videos about the devastation that Hurricane Harvey had caused in Texas, Louisiana and other areas in August 2017. She said she questioned how people with disabilities who use wheelchairs could survive natural disasters.

Under the supervision of Cassingham science teacher Jeanette Kuder, Katie used supplies from a local hardware store, added wheels to a desk chair, then attached a kickstand that could stop the wheels from moving, as well as a flotation device to navigate floodwaters.

In the national competition, Katie said, she explained how her invention works to the judges and answered their questions. She said she enjoyed learning about the work of other students from around the country.

"It was actually really cool. I got to walk around," she said. "The people in my group had really nice inventions."

Katie's father, Bexley High School band director Andrew Johnson, said he and Katie's mother, Katrina, an Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center physician, toured the museum with Katie during their downtime from the convention.

"(Katie) really did enjoy a lot of the exhibits and being surrounded by different inventors from around the world," Andrew Johnson said. "She learned a little bit of empathy at the same time. Two of the people in the same pod didn't win any awards. ... They were very devastated. She went out of her way to let them know, 'Your invention is cool.' She learned a little bit of what it's like not to win and celebrating her accomplishments, as well."

Katie will represent the Bexley City School District at the 2019 state Invention Convention on July 28 during the Ohio State Fair in Columbus. Her latest invention is a device to help homeless people track the availability of beds at shelters.

-- Chris Bournea/ThisWeek


Lia McMillan

A west Columbus girl with aspirations of becoming a veterinarian is getting an early jump on helping animals after designing a bed to help dogs sleep.

Her "Dora: Platform Dog Bed" invention won the Animal Care and Pets Industry Innovation Award at the Invention Convention U.S. Nationals competition.

At 13, Lia McMillan's love for animals, and specifically her 18-year-old dog, Dora, has helped plot a path for what she's planning to be a career as a veterinarian.

Her entry is a dog bed that was made to simulate the experiences canines have riding in vehicles. Her prototype is a 30-by-18-inch wooden box that features a floor vent and a fan mounted on the underside of an elevated bed. It's designed to simulate air moving through a rolled-down vehicle window, and the fan vibrates slightly to provide white noise and mimic the sensation dogs feel when they go for a ride with their owners.

"My dog is 18 years old and sometimes has trouble getting comfortable, falling asleep and staying asleep," Lia said. "But she always finds it easy to do so in the car. That's why I created a dog bed that simulates the canine driving experience."

In addition to being a winner among more than 500 students across the country in grades K-12, McMillan now is in the process of marketing the bed, she said. She already has received interest from veterinary clinics and pet stores, she said.

The resident of the Westgate neighborhood, who will be an eighth-grader at Columbus Gifted Academy next school year, already has a provisional patent for the bed, she said.

"I'm meeting with investors this fall," she said. "The goal is to help other dogs that have needs like my dogs."

McMillan's parents, J.R. McMillan and Michelle Ross-McMillan, said they have been impressed with their daughter's passion to help animals and her ingenuity in designing and building the dog bed and said they're excited to see how successful it is once it's marketed.

"It was very rewarding to see her receive recognition for this," J.R. McMillan said. "It's going to be something that opens doors for her. This is a custom product. It may be as novel and unique as we think it is."

-- Nate Ellis/ThisWeek


Madison Twyford

For Madison Twyford of Galena, inventive inspiration struck in the kitchen.

Madison, 10, who will be in fifth grade at Olentangy Local Schools' Walnut Creek Elementary School, said she was tired of making a mess and saw an opportunity for a new item.

"Whenever I was baking, I noticed that the flour would fly out of my electric stand mixer and would get all over the counter," she said. "So I decided to create a cover that attaches around the mixer to prevent the flour from getting everywhere."

Thus, the "Flour Power Cooking Cover" was born.

The invention was no surprise to Madison's mom, Karen Twyford, who called her a "huge" fan of the ABC show, "Shark Tank," during which inventors and entrepreneurs vie for funding from investors.

"I am so proud of Madison and her accomplishments," Madison's mother said. "She is such a creative and determined girl. When she has an idea in her head, she wants to see it through and make it happen, and that is what she did with this invention."

At the Invention Convention U.S. Nationals competition, Madison said, she wasn't sure how her invention would fare. When she heard her name announced as the winner of the Popular Choice Award, she was pleasantly surprised.

"I thought my invention was a really good idea, but I saw other people's inventions that were really good, too, so I wasn't quite sure if I was going to win," she said. "When they called my name, I was not expecting it, but I was super-excited and surprised."

The cooking cover was Madison's first invention, but she said she's "planning on creating more inventions and coming up with more ideas" and now has a taste for invention.

"I really like coming up with different ideas that can help people in their day-to-day life," she said.

That's just fine with her mother, who said she hopes her daughter can continue to use her intelligence and creativity.

"I hope that Madison continues to create new inventions," she said. "She's very bright and creative."

-- Andrew King/ThisWeek


Zora Womack

An effort to solve a problem for her grandmother put Zora Womack of Gahanna on the path to inventing the Pole Roll, an assist system for senior citizens that made Zora's entry a third-place winner in the sixth-grade category of the Invention Convention U.S. Nationals.

Zora, 11, will be a seventh-grader at Grace Christian School in Blacklick.

"I was talking to her (my grandma), and I asked her about problems in her life," she said. "She said getting out of her bed was one of them. I thought that (Pole Roll) was a good idea."

The purpose of her invention is to help older people get out of bed without falling.

Erica Womack said her daughter's invention could be described as a human conveyor belt.

"The Pole Roll uses two motor-mounted poles, which are positioned near the head and foot of the bed," Zora's mother said. "Attached to the poles is a sheet that moves a person who is lying in bed to the bottom of the bed and out and onto their feet."

Zora said the two motors roll the sheet down.

"The (person) would be in the middle of the bed so they wouldn't fall," she said.

Zora said she started with a cardboard prototype and ended with a 3D-printed version so it would be more stable.

She said she's looking into a possible patent for her design.

As a fifth-grader, Zora won at the district level with her invention when she was attending Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools' Goshen Lane Elementary School.

In July 2018, Zora advanced to the state contest, where she won the Industry Innovation Award in the Health and Medical category.

"We participated heavily in the Ohio Invention League," Womack said.

At the state level, it was held at the Ohio Expo Center & State Fair.

"They support you along the way as far as how to get a patent and help you with your pitch," she said.

In May, Zora competed in the U.S. Nationals in Michigan.

"It has been over a year working with this," Womack said. "It has been wonderful. We encourage her in this area. She has a passion for science."

She said she helped her daughter with the writing that was required.

"She had to have a log book," Womack said. "Her father (Maurice) helped a lot with the 3D-printing piece. We utilized our strengths in terms of helping her."

Zora said she wants to be a biochemist when she grows up.

-- Marla K. Kuhlman/ThisWeek