"We were all on an even playing field," said Lyra Thompson, a member of a Trane-sponsored team of three girls with vision impairments who competed in the Kansas School for the Blind Make48 competition late last year. "Whether you were totally blind or you had a lot of remaining vision, the goal was that you can still have all the good ideas and come up with them and communicate that to the people."
The all-girls team, self-dubbed The Little Red Hens in reference to the American fable representing hard work and discipline, won the national-qualifying Make48 competition hosted by the Kansas State School for the Blind (KSSB), a state agency dedicated to the education of students who are visually impaired or blind.
“It was exciting to see students work against the clock and collaborate together on functional and accessible maker solutions during the first Make48 competition,” said Lydia Knopp, Makerspace Coordinator for KSSB. “We are passionate about encouraging real-world technical and innovation skills in our students and this event helped enhance their understanding of STEM... helping them build skill sets for future careers.”
During the KSSB local competition, the “Little Red Hens” and the other competitors were challenged to create a chicken-egg dispenser that holds, displays and potentially dispenses farm-fresh chicken eggs that need to be cleaned before refrigeration. The team took its list of big ideas from paper notes, to design and prototype, to full-on packaged and presentable working model – all within the competition’s 48-hour time limit.
The team’s winning prototype, called The Egg Barn, was designed to be both aesthetically pleasing and functional. The wooden, barn-shaped egg storage unit features three shelves slanted downward at a slight angle to create a dispensing mechanism.
Based on her own primary school experiences at an inventors’ competition for robotics and her belief in engaging all students in the opportunity to learn by “doing,” the team’s captain, Trane’s own Mariah Presley, was a natural lead for the team during both competitions. Her first maker competition at age 10, helping design a robot for more efficient windshield placement on an assembly line, left a lasting impression on her. “For the first time in my life, I made a connection that many students aren’t encouraged to think about until much later. I understood how my interests in programming, process-building, and storytelling could fit into the real world with a high-tech company.”
It has been exciting for Mariah to support that kind of full circle career discovery, empowerment, and success with The Little Red Hens on behalf of Trane. Trane’s support of the Little Red Hens all-girls team Trane aligns with its commitment to fostering a talent pipeline for the building technology and energy solutions industry. It also aligns with its commitment to gender parity and inclusivity as a brand of Trane Technologies.
“The bravery, tenacity, and genuine enthusiasm the girls brought into the room everyday - even when it was crunch time and we hit a truck load of challenges at once - was inspiring beyond words,” said Mariah. “This competition proved a truly empowering experience for this small, but mighty team.”
The team already participated in the national competition, the results of which will be unveiled this fall on This Old House Makers Channel on Roku's Live TV channel 458), Watch this blog site for updates on the Little Red Hens at the national competition or check out Make48’s Nationals 2023 to follow the national competition step-by-step.