Imagine creating a device that would help people sleep better at night.
A trio of local girls came up with a prototype for an invention that would do just that.
Their idea – and the entry it generated — garnered a second place prize in the the Bright Schools Competition, a national contest co-sponsored by the National Sleep Foundation and the National Science Teachers Association.
The team of middle schoolers, made up of Catie Tomasello, of Land O’ Lakes and Grace and Sophia Nobles, of New Tampa, called themselves Team iLUMENate and submitted a project called “The iLUMENate Prototype.”
In essence, the prototype uses a light tracker, a cell phone app and a Smart Home system to monitor the amount of light a user receives throughout the day. The device adjusts the user’s environment to provide the proper amount of blue light exposure, for optimum light and sleep.
Besides creating the prototype, the team wrote a brief research paper and created a video for their prototype.
“Blue light is essential for regulating your circadian rhythm. You get too much of it at night, it prevents the body’s producing of melatonin. It makes it hard to sleep,” 14-year-old Grace Nobles explained.
“They say an hour or two before bed to stop using your devices. Teenagers, especially, have an issue with getting enough sleep,” she added.
Twelve-year-old Sophia Nobles designed the virtual floor plan that was used to demonstrate the concept in the project.
Catie Tomasello created a video to show how their prototype would work. It shows a Smart House, where lights are dimmed to reduce light exposure.
The girls began working on their entry at the beginning of the school year and invested between 40 and 50 hours on the project, said Heather Tomasello, Catie’s mom.
They bounced their ideas off of Sarah Szymanski, a teacher at Pine View Middle School, who was their coach. She also reviewed their research and their video, Heather Tomasello said, noting Szymanski was Catie’s former teacher.
The girls, who are homeschooled, decided to enter the contest after Heather Tomasello saw it on a list of contests sponsored by the National Science Teachers Association.
The Bright Schools Competition was open to students in sixth- through eighth-grade in the United States and Canada.
For their second-place finish, the girls each earned a prize of $2,500.
Their coach will receive an all-expense paid trip to the NSTA conference and membership to the NSTA.
The moms were delighted with the contest results.
“I was very excited,” said Shawn Nobles, who is Grace and Sophia’s mom.
“I was blown away,” Heather Tomasello said.
These girls are no strangers to achievement in academic circles.
Sophia took part in the White House Science Fair last year.
And all three girls have been on successful teams in the Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision competition.
Both Sophia and Grace have competed in ExploraVision three times and their teams have won honors twice. Catie competed on five teams and won honors four times. Last year, her team took the top national prize.
Published May 11, 2016