WATSONVILLE — About a half-year ago, Bradley Elementary School sixth-grader Scarlet Gleitsman Miller lost three goats to a mountain lion that jumped her six-foot tall fence. The cat killed her dog about two months later.
The loss of her pets deeply saddened the 11-year-old. But she turned her grief into action by inventing a device to scare livestock predators away.
“Predator Away” won at her school’s Invention Convention earlier this year. She was one of 28 students to win at the California Invention Convention in San Jose on April 13 against 3,000 of her peers.
Those students move on to the National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. in May.
Scarlet is one of four students from Pajaro Valley Unified School District going to the national competition.
Her research started when she learned that relocating the animals is not allowed. Knowing that Santa Cruz County is the lions’ natural habitat, she was unwilling to consider a “depredation” permit so that the lion could be killed, her mother Kona Gleitsman said.
“This second loss was so heartbreaking for her that I was afraid the trauma could negatively impact her forever, and I feared she would lose hope or her love of nature and animals altogether,” Gleitsman said.
That did not happen, she said.
Scarlet contacted wildlife experts from UC Santa Cruz and United States Fish and Wildlife Service, who told her that mountain lions are scared of donkeys.
That was the inspiration for “Predator Away,” a sturdy, motion-activated device that, when tripped, emits a flashing light and a blaring donkey bray.
“I was really happy,” she said of winning the national spot. “And I was even more happy my friend gets to go too.”
That friend is Eila Nelson, also in sixth grade at Bradley.
Eila said her “extremely independent” 3-year-old sister had trouble reaching faucet handles.
“She gets very annoyed when her 5-year-old brother can do it and she can’t,” Eila said.
Her invention, called Reach-A-Sink, was designed to help short people, and those with certain disabilities, to turn off and on sink handles.
Eila is now modifying her creation for the upcoming national event by adding a better grip. She is also toying with “fun” designs for the device.
Eila Nelson, a sixth-grader at Bradley Elementary School, shows her invention, Reach-A-Sink. — Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian
Watsonville Charter School of the Arts Elementary School fifth-grader Javier Aldaco de los Santos was taking an elective after-school sewing class when he learned how to knit.
He has since become adept, and has knitted several scarves.
When he tried to teach his aunt the skill, however, he realized that some beginners have trouble with repeatedly looping yarn over the tips of knitting needles.
His invention is Knitzy 3,000, a small hook made from silicone on the inside and smooth baked clay on the outside.
The device is designed to fit over the needles, with a hook that grabs onto the yarn and pulls it through the small loops.
“It’s like training wheels for knitting, because once you’re done you don’t need them anymore,” he said.
Charter School of the Arts fifth-grader, Javier Aldaco de los Santos, created Knitzy 3,000, a device that aids in knitting. — Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian
Maya Calfee, a fourth-grade student at Watsonville Charter of the Arts, said her invention was inspired by her love for basketball, and by her mother’s dislike of finding balls scattered throughout the house.
Her solution is the B-Ball Holder, a stylish tower that can hold several balls of various sizes and, Maya points out, houseplants.
With some help from her father, Maya designed the holder using materials easily found in hardware stores. She bent the wire hoops by hand and tied the nets herself.
Maya said she designed the B-Ball Holder to be a functional, attractive addition to any household.
“I think it’s a good design to put in your room,” she said.
Maya said she was “surprised and happy” to move on to the convention in Michigan.
Maya Calfee, a fourth-grader at Watsonville Charter School of the Arts, demonstrates her invention, the B-Ball holder. — Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian
The invention convention events were launched as a way to inspire young people to create their own unique solutions to problems they encounter, said California Invention Convention organizer Brenda Payne.
This requires “21st century skills” such as creativity, communication and critical thinking, and ties into Next Generation Science Standards, Payne said.
“California is full of talented and bright young learners, and this celebration of invention gives students the opportunity to share what they have created,” she said.
The National Invention Convention runs from May 29-May 31 at Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Michigan. For information, visit www.stemie.org/nicee.
Editor's Note: This article will publish in the April 26 edition of the Register-Pajaronian.