Kids rise to ‘You Make It’ challenge

Nov. 19, 2019
Rockwell Automation’s challenge invited young inventors to submit their big ideas to solve big problems back in June.

Michael Wilborne (from left), Louisa Wood and Makai Samuels-Paige were finalists in Rockwell Automation’s “You Make It Challenge,” which invited young innovators to make a difference. Wood took the prize with her sump-pump monitoring solution.

One central thread to all of the presentations during the Perspectives media event at Automation Fair was this—developing new solutions to the world’s greatest challenges. As such, it makes perfect sense to tap and celebrate the fresh ideas percolating in our youngest, sharpest minds.

Rockwell Automation’s You Make It Challenge invited young inventors to submit their big ideas to solve big problems back in June. Three finalists were gathered here to present their projects.

“We can’t wait to see your imaginations at work,” said Christine Spella, director of global marketing and communications, who served as emcee for this fun presentation that provided encouragement to any in the audience who doubted the ingenuity of our next generation.

During the second half of the You Make It Challenge, finalists were partnered with Rockwell Automation mentors, who helped the kids refine their ideas and prepare their presentations. It didn’t seem like these kids needed much help.

Judges were Tessa Myers, Rockwell Automation president, North America; Pam Murphy, COO of Infor and a Rockwell Automation board member; and Rockwell Automation Chairman and CEO Blake Moret.

Our three finalists

Louisa Wood, Bayside, Wisconsin, mentored by Tracy Swartzendruber, manager of Rockwell Automation’s global website portfolio

After a series of heavy rains flooded her basement, Wood set to work developing a better system than the traditional sump pump. “Groundwater is unpredictable,” she lamented. So she developed a system that applies predictive-maintenance concepts to realize the dry-basement dream. Her system employs machine-learning algorithms partnered with local weather data to enable the program to adapt to each installation and predict when a pump will overflow or when parts are likely to fail.

When asked by Judge Murphy what prompted her work in this field, Wood replied that she has long been passionate about STEM fields and computer science. The flooded basement merely prompted her to apply her passions to a hyperlocal solution.

The greatest indicator of the value in this solution developed by a bright 16-year-old? Wood explained that people routinely ask her if they can buy it.

Makai Samuels-Paige, Atlanta, mentored by Dave Vasko, Rockwell Automation director of advanced technology and strategic development

Like a lot of kids, Samuels-Paige gets bullied at school. Unlike a lot of kids, he developed a device to thwart his antagonists.

The inventor equipped his Anti-Bully Backpack with a pair of WiFi cameras to provide mobile, livestream monitoring of bullying behavior, a mobile hotspot to enable constant communication and a battery pack to ensure that cellphones are always charged.

The response? An administrator who oversaw the recent science fair in which Samuels-Paige entered his Anti-Bully Backpack “freaked out.” That was a positive reaction, just like the cheers that followed Samuels-Paige’s announcement that, just yesterday, a patent for the backpack was approved.

“I think this is going to make a big change in the world,” said the young inventor, who seems poised to do that himself.

Michael Wilborne, Roanoke, Virginia, mentored by Mike Pantaleano, director of business development architecture and software for Rockwell Automation

“I bet you didn’t think we’d be talking about toilets today,” said this 12-year-old inventor at the start of his presentation on an upgraded microflush toilet that can provide the benefits of modern sanitation with less reliance on the raw materials traditionally used to construct them. In short, Wilborne’s toilet minimizes the need for concrete and simplifies the waste-processing steps.

His parents’ missionary work in third-world countries sparked Wilborne’s interest in this field. A scientific mind fuels his creativity. And a remarkable maturity informed his presentation.

“I feel really encouraged to do more in the world,” he said, echoing his fellow finalists.

And the winner is

After the presentations, the kids gathered onstage while an actual drumroll played. They seemed nervous. They also seemed as proud as their parents in the crowd, who snapped pictures and fielded congratulations from those seated around them.

Wood and her smart sump-pump system was voted the You Make It Challenge winner, earning her a package of prizes that includes a grant to a FIRST robotics program, a 3D printer, a computer and a STEM workstation.

But, really, all three of these young innovators seem destined for great things. They embody the Expanding Human Possibility promise communicated by Rockwell Automation throughout this fun contest.
And, as with any true innovator in the modern world, should these kids’ visions become reality, all of us will reap the benefits.