Francis Tuttle Patent Pros

Francis Tuttle

Francis Tuttle Technology School students have achieved a nationwide record: the approval of their 12th patent in five years. Incredibly, each patented product was designed by high school students at the Portland Campus, and each is so technologically advanced that major corporations and medical companies are anxiously waiting for the products to make it to market.

“Coming out of high school with a patent is extremely rare,” said Brad Sanders, engineering instructor. “It’s a complicated process for adults, much less students who are accomplishing it in one school year—but their projects are so innovative and marketable, that our students are selling their patents, signing non-disclosure agreements and even forming their own companies as they head off to college.”

The caliber of the patents is astounding, ranging from LED reflective clothing and marine debris solutions to a hay bale unrolling device. Here’s a description of a few of the patents: A cross-arm assembly that prevents the “galloping” of electrical lines, which causes the wooden braces to break and shut off power during an ice storm. Working with OG&E, the students designed a steel version, made of such unique components that they earned three patents.

A tornado shelter that mounts onto a classroom wall like a white board, but once detached, it unfolds into a room that anchors into foundation bolts. This “safe room” can hold 24 students and the teacher. The student’s prototype was rated for F5 tornados and is currently undergoing further safety testing.

An electronic monitoring device that pinpoints the amount of air left in a patient’s oxygen tank—and then notifies the patient and caregiver electronically when air is getting low. The needle gauge currently on the market only gives an approximate oxygen level. “This idea was initiated by a three students wanting to help an acquaintance who landed in the hospital when his air ran out unexpectedly,” Sanders said. “Our students work to solve real-life problems.”

Such innovation comes from a capstone program in which high schoolers learn engineering principles and advanced math and science. Early in the year, each student identifies a problem to solve. Sanders and his co-teacher, Jared Keester, help the class narrow the scope down to a final team project.

This year’s project ideas vary widely, ranging from teaching music to the blind, a lymph node drainage device, a compost heating system, etc. Senior, Emily Haas, is proposing an early migraine detection system that would alert the patient by smart phone when the early warning signs of a migraine are developing so that the patient can take medication before full-migraine symptoms are in place.

As a sophomore, Emily independently developed a myoelectric sensor that allows a prosthetic hand to respond to muscle movement. Her prototype won a national technology competition. “I enrolled expecting to learn about engineering and fix a few things, but the academic challenges here are amazing,” Emily said. “The school has resources, like 3-D printing, that make it possible to achieve endless opportunities.”

Teaching a program with students that are so highly innovative is a “mind-blowing” experience for the teachers. Both Sanders and Keester are constantly having to learn to keep up with their students’ creativity and advancement.

“We’re really mentors, because they come up with the content,” Keester said. “They get so fired up that they want us to rush through our lessons so they can get to the lab and work on their own docket of things, like building prototypes. Sometimes we have to say, ‘Hold on, we have to teach you a few things first.’ It’s incredible and inspiring to watch high school students achieve the cutting edge.”

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