By Josephine McKenrick
Cincinnati Country Day School
Cincinnati Country Day School at 6905 Given Road was awarded a Lemelson-MIT (LMIT) InvenTeam grant for $7,500 to create an invention geared toward improving road bike safety.
Country Day, which was recently ranked the #1 best high school for STEM in the Cincinnati area by niche.com, is one of only eight high schools nationwide to be selected to have an InvenTeam this year.
“We are thrilled and proud to receive this prestigious grant,” said Jamie Back, InvenTeam co-educator, STEAM teacher and Makerspace coordinator. “It’s a big responsibility, but because our InvenTeam is such a diverse group, we have been able to come up with innovative and unconventional solutions. We are prepared to make a difference with our invention and the support of this esteemed program.”
InvenTeam members include Ayaan Arif ’25, Alex Back ’25, Donovan Gray ’25, Kate Kranias ’26, Lucia Murdoch ’25, Ashley Odom ’25, Kevin Pearson ’25, Jason Starodub ’26 and Samantha Wu ’26.
“There’s something special about working on a team versus being by yourself,” said Kranias. “Working together and watching an invention come together as something that will actually help bicyclists will be really satisfying.”
According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, over 100,000 bicyclists are injured or killed every year in the U.S. In addition, the National Safety Council reported that the number of preventable deaths from biking accidents increased 44% between 2011 and 2020. Many driver-related bicycling accidents are caused by lack of visibility, even in daylight.
To help reduce these deaths and injuries, the Cincinnati Country Day School InvenTeam is inventing a solution to improve road bike safety by increasing cyclist and driver awareness of each other.
“I enjoy biking a lot, so it’s cool to be part of a team that has the opportunity to solve a problem that cyclists face on a national scale,” said Starodub.
“The direct impact we can make in our community and the overall impact we can make for cyclists everywhere is really special to me.”
Jamie Back and Angela Barber-Joiner, director of belonging & wellbeing and InvenTeam co-educator, initiated Country Day’s InvenTeam application process in the spring. Their proposal was one of 28 accepted across the country.
This team of students worked over 70 hours during the summer, school lunchtimes, free bells, weekends and after school to prepare the final proposal in time for the September deadline.
“We are grateful for the support we have received from so many people in our Country Day community,” said Barber-Joiner. “But I must extend a special thank-you to Country Day parents, Justin and Lisa Shafer, who were inspired by the team’s success in the application phase and made a generous gift to the school to supply the meals, snacks and supplies for our InvenTeam meetings. I know I speak on behalf of the team when I say that their generosity helped fuel our productivity.”
Grant recipients were selected by a respected panel of university professors, inventors, entrepreneurs, industry professionals and college students, including former InvenTeam members now working in the industry.
“We put an incredible amount of time and thought into the grant application, and to have it selected as one of eight schools nationwide makes it totally worth it,” said Arif. “I am looking forward to continuing the process of inventing a solution, which has been very rewarding so far. We started with three unrelated ideas this past summer and by early spring we’ll start seeing an actual solution and that’s an amazing thing to be a part of.”
Over the next eight months, the Cincinnati Country Day School InvenTeam will develop a solution to the problem. “The InvenTeams are focusing on solving problems that impact their local communities,” said Leigh Estabrooks, Lemelson-MIT’s invention education officer. “Teams are focusing their technological solutions – their inventions – on inequities in health and well-being, environmental issues and safety concerns. These high school students are not just problem-solvers of tomorrow, they are problem solvers today helping to make our world more equitable, healthier and safer.”
In early July, the Cincinnati Country Day School InvenTeam participated in brainstorming activities to identify a plethora of ideas with the goal of defining an invention space that could lead to solving an existing problem in the community.
While meeting with community members and organizations, one of the school’s valued community members reached out to the team with a possible idea. Ashley Ward, recently retired assistant to the head of school, shared personal details about a bike accident in 2014 that took the life of Fred Carey, a much-beloved English teacher, dean of students, parent and alumnus. Carey was hit from behind by an intoxicated driver during a daytime bike ride.
The team will build a working prototype that will be highlighted at a mid-grant technical review locally in February and then again as a final prototype during EurekaFest, an invention celebration taking place in June 2024, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.