By JUDY SHERIDAN
The invention of a senior-friendly picture menu by McCall Elementary fifth-graders Jordan Chapin, Bryson Dean, Matthew Coburn and their Weatherford teammates has put the boy’s Lego robotics team in the running for an award that could lead to their product being used in real life.
The catch is “The Boys,” their team’s name, need a hand — and thousands and thousands of votes — from members of the Aledo and Weatherford communities between now and March 1 to make it happen.
“The Boys” won first place locally with their “All Senses Picture Menu” — which boosts nutrition for seniors living in nursing homes and retirement centers — then topped a field of 55 teams in the North Texas Regional Tournament.
These achievements, along with encouragement from judges, led the seven-member team of 10- and 11-year-old friends to enter the “FIRST Lego League Innovation Award” competition.
The winner gets a once-in-a-lifetime chance to work with the U.S. Patent Office in Virginia as well as a company that specializes in marketing new products.
The award could draw thousands of dollars in prize money to invest in the invention’s development.
“If we are able to win it,” Jordan said, “it would be like sprinkles on top of the icing on top of the cake. We’ve already had so much fun in this competition.”
Part of the award selection criteria, however, is getting people to back the invention by voting, as many times as possible, before March 1. The product must be in the top 10 to advance to the finals.
The large picture, large print flip-chart type menu, which has a provisional patent and is fully copyrighted, was designed to help seniors living in health care facilities by giving them an easier way to order meals, team coach Arlene Chapin said.
The process can prove difficult and embarrassing with the loss of eyesight and memory, she said, causing seniors to skip the dining hall because they can’t read the printed menu or reject meals if they’re not what they thought they ordered.
“[The picture menu] provides a level of independence seniors value,” Chapin said. “Another benefit is that if seniors order food they like, they will eat more healthy, well-balanced meals.”
The product could also be useful for stroke recovery patients, Chapin said, or as a speech therapy tool in special education.
Chapin said the boys interviewed their grandparents, as well as those living in Fort Worth’s Trinity Terrace Retirement Community, to come up with the idea that led to the invention.
“I think it will help them be more social,” Bryson said. “That’s important.”
How to vote
Go to http://fllinnovation.firstlegoleague.org/picture-menu. There is a “VOTE” button at the top of the team’s invention page, but a CAPTCHA question — a simple code to enter — must be answered first. The site also contains a link to “The Boys” website, which contains more details about their product.