Senior Anne K. wins a provisional patent with application written for AP English Lit
Compassion and innovation are Foxcroft hallmarks and both were demonstrated in December when senior Anne K. received a provisional patent from the United States Patent Office for her “Retractable Limited Dexterity Eating Aid." Receiving a patent is an impressive accomplishment, especially for a young woman (females hold about 10 percent of all the patents in the U.S.). Writing the application for the patent as a school assignment is pretty unusual, too, but thanks to an open-minded teacher and Foxcroft’s willingness to help girls reach their individual goals, that’s just what Anne did: the long and complicated application Anne wrote to obtain the patent was her major writing project for AP English Literature.
“Last year I created an assignment in which each student gets to select her own writing project and I help to guide her through the process,” explains teacher Steve McCarty. “We talk about what the end product looks like and the criteria by which I will grade them. The idea is that they get to try writing something other than the typical English essay.”
A patent grant application was indeed different and, Steve says, he learned how to write one right along with Anne. The invention worthy of a patent, however, was all Anne’s.
Inspired by her 94-year-old grandmother who was diagnosed with dementia last year and, like many older people, has difficulty with fine motor skills, Anne invented a tool that fits around any plate and is designed to push food towards the middle of the plate and provide a raised edge to help users get food onto their utensils and prevent spills. “People with dementia will often forget to eat food if it is scattered around the plate,” explains Anne, “and many people with dexterity issues have trouble getting food onto their utensils.”
Anne is especially proud of the fact that her device is retractable so it can be closed up and carried in a hand bag or other small bag. “Most eating aids involve special silverware or plates — things that are fine to use at home but not practical for eating outside the home,” she explains. “My device can go anywhere and fit on any plate.”
Anne did a lot of research before and after coming up with her idea. She also took an online course to learn a sophisticated computer-aided design software called On Shape, so that she could create the device. By summer’s end she had rendered detailed drawings of the device and created a sample on the 3D printer in The Innovation Lab at Foxcroft. Then school started.
The AP English Lit assignment gave Anne the opportunity to continue her project. Both Mr. McCarty and Anne were pleased with how it turned out.
“The best case scenario [with this assignment] is when the student gets to write something that she would do if only she had the time. This is what happened with Anne,” says McCarty.
“Doing the research and figuring out what comprised a strong application was very time-consuming,” says Anne. “I don't think I would have ever managed to do it, what with college applications, school, and everything else I'm involved in. I am very, very thankful to Mr. McCarty for the opportunity to do it as part of his class and for all the support he gave me."
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