From Hamden Hall’s own Father of Invention, Grade 3 students learned about patents and the art of innovation during a recent class project.
Dr. Frank "Doc" Gasparro, chemistry teacher and Director of Hamden Hall's signature program, Science, Innovation & Design, currently holds six patents and is waiting on approval for a seventh, on which he is listed as co-inventor along with Hamden Hall senior Harry Han.
“As a patent-holder myself, I like to encourage our students to be innovative and inventive. You never know who will have the next big idea that will help enhance our daily lives and add to our quality of lives,” explained Doc Gasparro.
Under the direction of Lower School science teacher Claire Rich, third-graders began their research into patents with an 1885 inventor, Sarah Goode. Known as the first African American woman to receive a patent, Goode invented a folding cabinet bed to fit in small homes.
From Doc Gasparro, the students also learned that the first-ever U.S. patent was signed by George Washington in 1790. A reset in the numbering system through the Patent Act of 1836 later granted Sen. John Ruggles Patent #1. Also of interest was that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office just issued Patent #10,000,000.
“The class was very excited to learn about Dr. Gasparro and Harry Han’s pending patent that they have filed,” said Mrs. Rich.
According to Doc Gasparro, the preliminary work for the patent has all been performed at Hamden Hall. The invention, a new way to prepare a safer sunscreen, is called: Sunscreen Formulation in Hydroxyapatite Encapsulation.
Learning about the sunscreen patent then led to discussion about coming up with an original idea – in other words, what constitutes an invention?
Doc Gasparro noted that an invention cannot be trivial and/or obvious. He offered the example of drilling a hole in a broom handle for easier storage purposes, which would not be a patentable idea.
Adding her insight into patents was alumna Ellen Rich, Class of 2010. Ellen is a regional account manager at IFI Claims Patent Services, which is a leading supplier of patent data for resellers and innovators in the research and healthcare sectors. Somewhat surprisingly, Ellen shared that many patents are held by children.
“When my mom told me she was covering patents with her class, I thought it would be a great idea to share some of the most famous inventions created by kids. Anyone at any age can come up with an idea that is new or novel. Kids are great at identifying a problem and coming up with an innovative solution,” said Ellen.
Obviously, students were intrigued to learn that the popsicle was invented in 1905 by an 11-year-old named Frank! Interesting, too, will be whether one of the next patent filers will be a Hamden Hall third-grader. Students presented their ideas and inventions to Ellen – including that of a remote-controlled sled that can slide back up the hill by itself and a conveyor belt that assists a handicapped individual move around the house.
“All the students had delightful inventions and keep sharing with me their new ideas. I look forward to someday seeing who was inspired to patent their invention. This is an exceptional group of learners, and it has been an exciting project for them,” said Mrs. Rich.