Guest post from Kate Stack, winner of the 2016 Teen Summit Innovation Tank
This past November I had the opportunity to attend Teen Summit in Milwaukee, WI, and be a part of the first ever Innovation Tank. The short story is that it was an amazing experience, and I am counting down the days until the upcoming Summit. And the long story…well, where do I start?
Last year I rejoined TAG (FARE’s Teen Advisory Group) and I quickly met other teens online who would also be attending Teen Summit. Since I live near Chicago and Milwaukee is not too far of a drive, I was determined to go. In the meantime, I had begun working on a prototype of a toy to help kids with food allergies learn how to inject epinephrine for a school club. Coincidentally, I then got an email from FARE about their creation of the first ever Teen Summit Innovation Tank. It would be a program where other teens with bright ideas could propose them in front of other attendees at the conference. A panel of judges would ask questions about the prototype or concept and invite comments from the audience. After that it was up to the judges and conference attendees to vote on a winner. The opportunity sounded awesome so I figured, why not? I sent my short application video and was chosen as a finalist to present at the Summit.
Fast forward a bit and I find myself in Milwaukee ready to share my idea. The Innovation Tank was held the first night of the conference, which was a Friday. I was excited, yet nervous about going in front of everyone. I learned that many of the other finalists felt the same. After introductions, we sat down and mentally rehearsed our speeches. When it came time to go onstage, they even introduced us with the “Shark Tank” theme music. Once I got up there, I was shaky at first but I took a deep breath and focused on my words. Throughout school, I had been involved in “Maker Club” which encouraged creativity and exploration. I was interested in programming and got started with something called an “Arduino”. An Arduino is like a mini computer which you can code to do certain things with circuits. For example. If you attach a LED to it you could control the brightness and how fast or slow it blinks.
As I learned to use it I thought of possible applications. I thought about food allergies because I have had a peanut and tree nut allergy since I was three years old. I began to think of all the problems I’ve faced with allergies, especially when I was younger. I remembered the time my mom was reviewing with me on how to use my auto-injector and how she accidentally injected the real one on herself! She was fine, but as a little kid, it frightened me. I knew that to practice you could either use a trainer on yourself or an orange, but what if there was a better way? Well, using an Arduino I could make a training tool responsive to touch, with an instruction screen, and even sound. I found tutorials online for each individual component and worked to mash all of the code and concepts together.
In the end, I created Epi-Spot, a stuffed animal that guides kids (and adults!) through the epinephrine injection process as they go through the steps. The sensor on the thigh (a spot) is responsive to touch so it knows when the auto-injector is there or if it left the spot. The screen provides the instruction and a count-up of the time needed while the buzzer is an auditory aid. My prototype is shown in my application video which can be found here.
Then it was onto the rest of the conference! I met many incredible teens (most of whom I’m in touch with regularly!) and was able to meet people who “get it.” We were able to share our struggles and joys with allergies but also not let it be the focus. We talked about school, sports, and the differences about where we lived. Going in I was a little intimidated being new to the Summit, but I was quickly able to meet people and make friends. When Sunday morning rolled around, we didn’t want to leave each other! But we have not lost touch and are just a text or phone call away from one another. The opportunity to connect with other teens like myself was empowering and invaluable. The Innovation Tank added an extra layer to that and allowed several teens to shine and show off their prototypes and ideas. I am excited to be one of the judges for next year’s tank and see all of the new concepts this November in Newport Beach, California. See you there!
Registration is now open for the 12th Annual Teen Summit this fall in beautiful Newport Beach, CA. Submissions to the 2017 Teen Summit Innovation Tank will be accepted until July 31, 2017. Visit foodallergy.org/teensummit for more information.