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Young inventors impress seniors, advance to world festival

Staff Intern: John Spruill  Breyden Wood, 12, of Suwanee, shows David Evans how to use the E-Z Inflatalbe at Noble Village in Suwanee on Friday. Wood, is a member the 'Determintors,' a group of inventors who will be competing against others from 25 states and 30 countries in St. Louis.

Staff Intern: John Spruill Breyden Wood, 12, of Suwanee, shows David Evans how to use the E-Z Inflatalbe at Noble Village in Suwanee on Friday. Wood, is a member the 'Determintors,' a group of inventors who will be competing against others from 25 states and 30 countries in St. Louis.

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Staff Intern: John Spruill 'Determinators' coach Ken Halley introduces team members Jackson Grant, from left, Madison Camp, Grace Halley, Joseph Briggs, Jack Halley, Breyden Wood and Quintin Kernsg at Noble Village in Suwanee on Friday. The Determinators are a young group of inventors who will be competing agaist other young inventors from 25 states and 30 countries in St. Louis.

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Staff Intern: John Spruill 'Determinators' team members Jack Halley, left, and Breyden Wood demostrate how to use the E-Z Inflatable during a skit at Noble Village in Suwanee on Friday. The Determinators are a young group of inventors who will be competing agaist others from 25 states and 30 countries in St. Louis.

SUWANEE -- As a former school teacher from Chattanooga, Tenn., Olwyn Carpenter is interested in most things children are doing these days. But when they invent something that helps her get out of a chair, well, that's just nifty, she said.

That's what happened when a group of eight children from 11- to 13-years-old with a team name of "The Determinators" partnered with residents from the Noble Village to work on an invention in the First Lego League. After they won the state competition in January, the team held a send-off party on Friday at Noble Village where they shared demonstrations along with ice cream and cookies with the residents.

Because this year's theme for the FLL was to make seniors lives' easier, the group met residents at Noble Village to gather advice and inspiration from the senior citizens. Then they developed the portable "E-Z Inflatable," a wedge-shaped air cushion that helps senior citizens get out of their chairs easily. The product has two air compressors, handles and is considerably cheaper than lift chairs.

"This cushion to help you get up was phenomenal," said Carpenter, who is 87 years old. "As you get older, different things stop working. And if you can have something that will give you a little lift, that's terrific. You don't expect them to be able to come up with something that's going to be as helpful as this is. So it was really a pleasant surprise."

They beat out 500 other teams in Georgia and will be among 200,000 kids on April 24-27 in St. Louis competing against other young inventors from 25 states and over 30 countries at the First Lego League World Festival.

"If this were Little League, this would be like going to the Little League World Series," Coach Ken Halley said. "It's a privilege to be selected to go, and you're with some of the smartest people in the world."

Haley said the festival includes several levels including high school and college age competitors, and recruiters from Google, Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

"Their goal is to go and have a great time, and if they win any sort of recognition, that'd be gravy," Halley said.

The team received sponsorships from Slingshot Product Development Group and BrightStar Care, which offered assistance with prototypes and early product development. Bright Star is financing the team's trip to St. Louis, Halley said.

Part of the competition also consists of developing robots that perform tasks, and perform a skit that offers more insight into the product.

Scott Morrison, president of BrightStar, said this product is effective because it helps people stay in their homes longer, and it comes at a time when an aging baby boomer population is entering the system.

"It's going to require all of us to learn to care for the elders, and it's going to require a lot of technology," Morrison said. "I'm just thrilled that these young folks are looking at that, because this is the generation that's going to take care of me."