Report Card

News and discussion on K-12 schools in the greater Sacramento region

October 22, 2012
Golden Apple: Colfax students win with housing invention

Thumbnail image for CHS 2012-13 Photo J. Schwartz.JPGGolden Apple: This week's Golden Apple award goes to a group of Colfax High School students who will be showcasing their award-winning invention next year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass.

The Colfax High School students' project was awarded up to $10,000 in grant funding in the Lemelson-MIT Program's InvenTeam competition. Their project was selected along with 15 other teams across the country for its potential to be a readily available tool that will design emergency relief housing.

In its 10th year, the program awards up to $10,000 in grant funding for students to "pursue year-long invention projects that address real-world problems."

InvenTeam encourages high school students to apply lessons from science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to develop invention prototypes. Students will showcase their projects in June 2013 at MIT.

Colfax High junior Patrick Bradshaw said their team was looking at the basic needs of people, from food and water, to energy and housing when deciding what they would focus their project on.

"We decided to tackle housing," Bradshaw said. "There are a lot of organizations that make materials, so we focused on the layout."

The Colfax team is building a mechanical devise that ensures the floor, walls and roof are all square in order to maximize support when building a home or emergency relief shelter.

Here is how it is described on the InvenTeams website:

The The Colfax High School InvenTeam will invent a construction layout tool. The mechanical device will sit in the middle of the building envelope and use similar shapes to make sure the floor, walls and roof are all square to maximize support. This tool will be used by any home builder, but is especially designed for emergency relief housing. The complex trigonometric relationships are built into this tool, so noivces and experts alike will be able to use it. Users will be able to learn the trigonometric concepts involved in constructing a house. It will be manufactured for under $20.

"Our tool would allow an untrained individual to square a house and make it sturdy," Bradshaw said.

The Colfax students and their teacher Jonathan Schwartz said the project was made possible through the support of mentor Peter Sims, an author and innovation expert and the Center for Applied Competitive Technologies at Sierra College.

For more information on the competition, visit

(Photo courtesy of Jonathan Schwartz)

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About Report Card

Loretta KalbLoretta Kalb started her reporting career at The Sacramento Union, moved to KOVR-13 as a television reporter, editor and producer, headed to The Associated Press in San Francisco and eventually returned to Sacramento and joined The Sacramento Bee. Throughout her career, she has covered the state Legislature, courts, local government and, now, education. She is a Chico native and an Elk Grove resident.

Diana LambertDiana Lambert began her journalism career as a proofreader at the Lodi News-Sentinel. She is now a senior writer at The Sacramento Bee covering K-12 education and California State University, Sacramento. Previously she was The Bee’s Elk Grove bureau chief. Lambert was raised in a military family and lived at bases around the globe. She attended four high schools, graduating from Tokay High in Lodi and then Sacramento State University. She lives in Elk Grove.

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