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OCSLA Partnering with MIT

Thanks to the 21st Century Community Learning Center grant the Oregon City Service Learning Academy received in the fall of 2013, the OCSLA team has been given the incredible opportunity to work with the Lemelson-MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), JV InvenTeams.

The Lemelson-MIT Program is committed to honoring those who have helped improve people’s lives through invention. The Program was established in 1994 at MIT, by one of the world’s most prolific inventors, Jerome Lemelson, and his wife, Dorothy. It is funded by The Lemelson Foundation and administered by MIT’s School of Engineering. The Lemelson-MIT Program recognizes outstanding inventors, encourages sustainable new solutions to real-world problems, and allows and inspires young people to engage in creative lives and careers through invention. The Lemelson-MIT JV InvenTeams consist of students in grades 7-10 who improve their hands-on skills and enrich their STEM education through invention-based design activities.

Through this program, over the course of the last year, OCSLA has formed four of the thirteen JV InvenTeams in Oregon. OCSLA’s freshman and sophomores have designed and made shoe soles while studying materials, chemistry, and molding. They also designed and made an article of clothing or piece of art that lit up while studying circuits and textiles.

Because of the positive partnership formed between Lemelson-MIT and OCSLA, a team of OCSLA staff was hand picked to travel as guests to the MIT campus in Cambridge, MA in order to conduct research and development on upcoming JV InvenTeam units as well as help make the units more teacher/user friendly.

While on campus, the OCSLA team dove into two upcoming JV InvenTeams units that are currently in development stages. The OCSLA team was able to do hands on work in one of the MIT labs in order to create smooth running activities before the units are sent out to high school students across the country.

The first of two units focused on sound, speakers and instruments, with the goal of creating an electronic instrument as well as a speaker. To better understand sound, the unit first explores electromagnetism and human anatomy, breaking down those topics into concepts students can easily grasp and apply to the materials provided in order to invent an instrument of their own designing.  

The second of the two units focused on optics, in particular camera lenses - how a lens’s shape and material affect focal length, how focal length affects angle of view and zoom, and how aperture affects brightness and depth of field. To better understand lenses, optical calculations, biomimicry and camera prototyping were explored and applied as the team attempted to build a camera lens themselves to be used on a digital camera.

Both the Lemelson-MIT Foundation and the OCSLA team were extremely appreciative of the time they had in the MIT lab, problem solving and working together to trouble shoot these upcoming units. Their time was a positive team building experience as well as the perfect opportunity to plan ahead to how their students would respond to the activities at hand.  

For more information about the Lemelson-MIT program, visit: