School NewsJun 28, 2024

updated Jul 9, 2024

Patent Pending

Izzy ’24 looks toward a sustainable future

Izzy ’24 has long coupled an entrepreneurial streak with an interest in STEM. As a middle-schooler, she built a website advertising her babysitting services, and she attended the Girls Who Code summer camp at MHS. Now, as a high school student, she has submitted two patent applications.

“I am in the process of waiting, probably about six years,” says Izzy, who submitted patent applications for two products — a Mobile Device Stand and a Cell Phone Charger Cable Box — prototyped right here at MHS. The first product props and stabilizes a cell phone. The second is a case that winds charger cables, solving the inexorable problem of excess cord.

“There is definitely a sense of accomplishment and gratitude for the people who have helped me accomplish this,” Izzy says of her experience. She especially credits Tim Butterworth, Operations Manager at the Berkshire Innovation Center (BIC) in Pittsfield, and Dr. Chris Himes, Director of Engineering & Technology Innovation/STEAM Coordinator at MHS.

Christopher Himes, Ph.D.

“Tim has been a pretty profound influence throughout my direction in STEM, and Dr. Himes has been a guiding force throughout all of this since middle school and has really impacted my direction, nurtured my ambition and brought it along,” she says. “It has also been inspiring to connect with others over a shared interest in technology.”

Izzy’s interest in STEM began with computer science and making games. “I attended Girls Who Code at Miss Hall’s and met other smart girls who were involved in STEM, then I started spending more time in STEM-related activities and camps,” she explains. “When I came to MHS, I had Engineering classes that gave me an opportunity to take these interests that had been building up and apply them in an academic area.”

The summer before junior year, Izzy enrolled in the B[E]TA program at the BIC. The five-week, experiential learning program connects students with local businesses, helps them explore idea development and business strategies, and lets them engage in technologies offered at the BIC.

“That’s when I was really exposed to the breadth of engineering and the avenues it can go — tangible career paths,” says Izzy. It was also her first exposure to the 3-D modeling program Fusion 360. During the program, students were asked to develop an idea for an invention, prototype the idea, create a pitch, and present it to “investors.”

Those lessons came in handy during her junior year when Izzy took Engineering and Society with Dr. Himes. The class focused on Fusion 360, 3-D printing, and prototyping. “Because I had some experience already, it was a good opportunity to push projects a little further and challenge myself,” says Izzy.

One assignment asked students to create a marketable product. Knowing phone and computer charging cords often end up in a rat’s nest of wires, Izzy envisioned a container to hold a charger and allow the user to deploy and retract cord as needed.

She designed her idea in CAD, then printed prototypes with the Hopper Innovation Lab’s 3-D printer. “There was a lot of iteration required to get the right dimensions and so it could accommodate a wider range of chargers,” she explains.

For a previous project, Izzy created a support stand for a cellphone. “My mom loved it,” she says, “So I started thinking, what can I do with this?” With assistance from mom, an attorney experienced in patents and trademarks, Izzy decided to apply for patents.

“In January 2023, I began the meticulous process of preparing technical drawings for the design and function of the two products,” says Izzy, who received this year’s Senior Prize in Engineering and Tech Innovation at MHS. “Now I wait. It’s interesting, too, because the experience feels very rigid, more than you would expect. Innovators and inventors move fast and break things, but the patent process is very rigid, and you have to describe your product as briefly and concisely as you can.”

While she waits, Izzy continues pursuing her interest in STEM. Last summer, she was a B[E]TA intern, helping lead the B[E]TA cohort, and she helped produce the summer 2023 TEDx at the BIC, which is her Horizons site again this year. Ultimately, Izzy hopes to use her skills to make energy systems more efficient and sustainable.

“The sustainability of our planet is incredibly important to me, and I want to gain as many skills and as much understanding as I can to be able to do something about it,” she says. “This experience acts as a springboard to launch me into much more complicated issues in college and beyond.”

And, when she returns for her MHS reunion, Izzy’s products might no longer be “patent pending!”