Morgan LaRochelle is a softball, piano and field hockey player. She also has a distinction now that not many other 13-year-olds have: award-winning inventor.
LaRochelle, who just finished eighth grade at Hermon Middle School, took home two top awards at the fourth annual Invention Convention U.S Nationals late last month at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Michigan.
Among 507 competitors, including students from Singapore, China and Mexico, LaRochelle won one of three Young Visioneer awards and second place in the eighth-grade category. With the Young Visioneer Award, LaRochelle will be invited on an all-expenses-paid trip to tour a Koch Industries research and development facility, and she will be paired with a mentor to help refine her invention and give her ideas about future opportunities.
Her road to winning a national award started in a classroom at Hermon Middle School, where LaRochelle had to come up with a solution to a real problem for her eighth-grade physical science class, taught by James Fratini. The eighth graders’ inventions became part of Hermon Middle School’s local Invention Convention competition.
Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in October, the problem LaRochelle wanted to solve was reducing contamination on blood glucose test strips that often distort blood test results.
Diabetics have to test their blood sugar every day, sometimes multiple times, with a meter and test strips that come in a small canister, LaRochelle said. Diabetics have to wash their hands before touching the strips or risk inaccurate readings that could cause them to take too much or too little insulin.
To solve this problem, LaRochelle created a prototype Blood Glucose Dispenser, which dispenses one strip directly into the blood glucose meter hands-free.
Although it won’t eliminate all inaccurate readings, LaRochelle said, she wanted to eliminate at least one cause of them.
There can be thousands of other causes of inaccurate readings, LaRochelle said. “Diabetes is different for me every day, and it is different from another person,” she said.
LaRochelle’s prototype is a product of 3D printing, which Fratini offered in the classroom. It took 11 attempts before her prototype was workable.
LaRochelle qualified for the Invention Convention by first succeeding in her school’s invention competition. From there, she won “Most Innovative,” essentially first place overall, at a statewide competition held earlier this spring at the Cross Insurance Center during the Maine Science Festival. That award landed her a spot in the national competition.
LaRochelle and a student from Eastport were the only competitors from Maine. LaRochelle had to pitch her invention to judges and send in a photo of her presentation board, notebook, prototype and video when she registered.
“The invention convention is really great because it is teaching everyone that is involved how big your opportunities are,” Morgan’s mother, Nicole LaRochelle, said. “It really encourages them to make a difference, try something new, fail at it and try again.”
LaRochelle will attend Hermon High School in the fall. She said she hopes to someday work in the medical field, either working with animals or finding a cure for Type 1 Diabetes.