Student inventors take project to next level

A team of innovative local students who won the top prize last year in

the Christopher Columbus Awards National Championship aren’t resting on their laurels.

Ethan Epstein, Brandon Loye, Sean Colford and Michael Walsh won a $25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant in the science and technology competition for middle school students. Their invention, the Ergonomic Posture Alignment Device, or “Ergo-PAD,” is an ergonomically shaped seat pad that uses sensory feedback to train people to develop a healthy posture when sitting at a computer.

The team of Carmel Valley Middle School students, who planned to use the grant to develop their invention, is now starting the patent process.

Last week, the boys met with Covington & Burling attorney Matt Lapple and scientific adviser Brad Tipler, who are teaching the boys about the patent and developing a prototype of their product.

“This is a big step for us,” said mom Rhonda Epstein, who helped coach the boys in the contest. “They did want to make a big impact on their community, and they are well on their way to doing that.”

“It’s very exciting for the kids,” said Tipler, who will help the boys run a new study to show their product’s effectiveness on posture improvements and pain reduction on a larger scale.

Additionally, the boys will hit the road to speak about their invention at two upcoming conventions: The Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education in San Diego in April, and the ErgoExpo in Las Vegas in November. The students also wrote a resolution for the California Parent Teachers Association on Computer Workstation Health, which they will present for the association’s delegation to vote on in Sacramento in May.

The boys will submit their same project, with some improvements and tweaks, to the national eCYBERMISSION contest. They will find out how they fared in the national contest by mid-April.