InvenTeam, Disruptive Innovation low on funds for MIT trip

By Shannon Morgan
Staff Writer

A compilation of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math [STEM] program’s best and brightest students can be found on a team known as Disruptive Innovation. Recently, the team has realized that they are facing an issue– they need to raise $10,000 to travel to EurekaFest at Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT] in June to present a project they have been working on for a year, or many of the team members will not be able to go.

Disruptive Innovation is a select group of 12 junior and senior engineering students who are a part of the 2015 Coppell High

School InvenTeam, according to Mike Yakubovsky, STEM director and head of the Disruptive Innovation team.

oppell High School’s Disruptive Innovation engineering team created the Gateways module, which is designed to help special needs students. They plan to take Gateways to EurekaFest at MIT in June if they can raise the money.
oppell High School’s Disruptive Innovation engineering team created the Gateways module, which is designed to help special needs students. They plan to take Gateways to EurekaFest at MIT in June if they can raise the money.

“The InvenTeam initiative is a program out of the Lemelson foundation of MIT, encouraging high school students to invent and be inventive,” Yakubovsky said.

The Lemelson foundation awards 15 grants up to $10,000 for teams to use towards creating their invention. The teams that receive these grants are also invited to the Lemelson-MIT EurekaFest in June, where students will present their inventions and have the chance at winning awards, discovering potential internships or job opportunities and connecting with college professors.


“Schools from all over the country, [Lemelson] gets about 300 applications a year, will put in an application in the spring [for a grant],” Yakubovsky said.

CHS was one of the schools to receive a grant. With the money they built Gateways, a device that they hope will help change how special needs students learn and grow.


“We’re working with Mrs. [Eileen] Higgins over in the Active Learning room with the special education department. They’ve got 5 students who have multiple disabilities, whether it’s vision, hearing, mobility or cognitive development issues,” Yakubovsky said.

The invention is supposed to help make both Higgins and the students’ time easier when learning.

“What we found when we talked to Higgins is that she spends most of her day trying to get data on the students,” Yakubovsky said. “There’s not a lot of material out there, not a lot of programs, or equipment for these types of students. Developmentally, the things that we grew up with when we were little and were toddlers are the things they need, but Barney and Teletubbies is not appropriate for a high school student. What we’re doing is creating a device that is customizable for her [with] activities that are developmentally appropriate, but has the environment that is age appropriate for them.”

With Gateways, Disruptive Innovation hopes to change how Higgins teaches her students, but still give them the special attention that each one needs.

“[Gateways] allows her more freedom to be a better teacher and the students to grow more because the module would be able to grow with them, adapt with them, as well as just give her feedback,” Yakubovsky said. “It really helps her do her job better and make her life easier making their life better.”

Now, despite the entire team’s hard work and commitment, they have run into a problem– there is practically no money for Disruptive Innovation to travel to EurekaFest.

“Part of the grant agreement was that we have to go back to the MIT campus and go present in June,” said Yakubovsky. “Leaving on a Thursday, coming back on a Sunday with the whole team and chaperones is quite expensive. The total cost we’re looking at is somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000 for the whole trip. The grant doesn’t cover that– it’s one of the stipulations of the grant. We’ve raised enough to send one student, and trying to raise the rest to so more can go.”

While the Lemelson grant enables the team to buy a range of materials to create Gateways, it does not pay the other $10,000 the entire team needs for things like airline tickets and the cost of hotels. In fact, they have only raised around $800, which would allow only one student to go.

“We’ve been contacting companies around town, trying to get in touch with them about fundraising opportunities, donations or sponsorships,” said Yakubovsky. “A couple of companies [like] Tappy’s and J. Macklin’s have done some ‘give back’ nights and that’s where we’ve gotten some money. The team is having to do the fundraising and the building all at the same time and that’s quite difficult.”

If Disruptive Innovation does not raise the money, the team will still send one student to EurekaFest with the Gateways invention. But that is not something they want to do.

A senior member of the team, Erin Payne, explained the disappointment she would feel if she did not get to travel to present their invention.

“It’s going to be a huge disappointment, just because we have worked so hard on the project, and because it is something great that can help a bunch of other schools besides CHS,” Payne said.

Disruptive Innovation is looking for any and all help they can get to send their team to EurekaFest with a creation that they feel could potentially benefit special needs students everywhere, not just CHS.

“It’s one of those things where you’ve worked so hard, for so many hours throughout the year,” said Payne. “There’s so many team members putting in so much effort towards something for someone besides themselves, that it is kind of sad that money is the only thing setting us back.”

For more information about Disruptive Innovation and their invention, visit