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Young innovators honored at UAF competition

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Posted: Monday, October 22, 2012 11:10 pm | Updated: 11:40 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — Keeping warm and keeping occupied — outdoors and indoors — was the focus of the top three semifinalists at Friday’s first junior section of the Arctic Innovation Competition

A multi-level game board, thermal snowsuit and insulated ski poles/gloves were presented by three young entrepreneurs who came out on top of 39 entries, in the 17 and younger AIC junior section.

The AIC competition, in its fourth year, is hosted by the School of Management at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The young students made individual presentations in the UAF Wood Center Ballroom stage to explain their innovative ideas in detail via Powerpoint, followed by questions from the audience.

Two of Chris Greenfield-Pastro’s seventh grade extended learning program students at Randy Smith Middle School, Matthew Velderrain and Tristan Walker, were among a number in the class who took up the AIC challenge, and made it to the final judging.

Velderrain won first place and $500 for his “Thermal Suit” prototype designed to keep the wearer warm all over during Interior Alaska’s cold winters.

Made of wool, nylon and waterproof leather, the snowsuit is insulated with thermal wires covered with heat tape “to avoid burns,” Velderrain said. Other safety features include knee pads, and an outer material that glows in the dark.

A battery pack containing 4 AAA batteries is conveniently located on the right shoulder for easy temperature adjustment, and the boots are removable.

Velderrain said the suit will be made available in primary and secondary colors of choice and can be initialized on the chest and belt.

Batteries also were used by Tristan Walker in creating “Tropicalski,” a combo of handwarming ski poles and gloves that can be used together or separately. He explained that batteries in the ski pole heating device could easily be replaced via a pop off ski pole top. He won $300 for his creative effort.

Seven-year-old James Burrow climbed onto a plastic milk crate to reach the podium’s microphone to talk about “James World,” a game idea he came up with when he was just 4 years old. He was assisted by his mother, Traci Burrow, in carrying out the original idea into a sophisticated, multi-level car game board that is conveniently packaged into a carrying case.

James questioned why board games in boxes have been the same for decades, with loose pieces here and there, to come up with the layered level game idea. The family is working towards patenting “James’s World.”

A second grader, James is homeschooled. He said he plans to donate his prize money ($200) to a children’s hospital.

Pastro said the AIC competition has been a great incentive for her students to come up with an idea, research and refine it, produce a visual and explain it in writing.

“I’m pleased the AIC opened the competition up to young people, and gave them a chance to be innovative and creative,” she said.

Contact staff writer Mary Beth Smetzer at 459-7546.

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