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Students bring ingenuity and passion to Glendale Unified's Invention Convention

Seventh-grader Laura Minasian is an inquisitive person with a passion for inventing and seeing how things get made.

The Toll Middle School student said her favorite TV show is "Shark Tank," a reality program where inventors and entrepreneurs showcase their works in the hopes of getting investments.

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"I have a lot of questions about everything," Minasian said with a grin. "I'm really curious."

That curiosity came in handy when she put together her most recent invention, dubbed "Recycandle," which collects melted candle wax in a device she put together herself, and it can be used again and again.

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"I (think) candles are really cute and, if you could create a way to reuse them or save the mess of the melting wax, that would be way better than buying new ones all the time," she said.

Minasian wasn't too crazy about the name, but it was clear plenty of people liked her product — it took home the first-place prize at the 22nd annual Glendale Unified School District Invention Convention.

The event was open to all fifth- to eighth-grade students in the district's Gifted and Talented Education program, known as GATE.

This year, 101 students presented 73 inventions, which were on display in the Glendale High School cafeteria this past Saturday.

The entries were judged Friday night by a group that included Glendale Rotary Club members as well as staff from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

"This event encompasses some of our most creative minds, divergent thinkers, and it really lets them see a project from the initial thought all the way through to presenting and production," said Kelly King, assistant superintendent of Glendale Unified. "It really is an exceptional program and one of our most special events during the year."

Students' inventions often reflect something that was in the news recently, according to King. Among the entries this year were several designed to combat California's historic drought, including a system to collect excess shower water.

King said it's not uncommon for some students to submit new creations year after year.

"They get hooked on inventing," she said.

Fifth-graders Keya Chaudhuri and Josie Springer, both from Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, won third place in their grade group for designing a smartphone app they named "Snytch."

The duo, who said they have been best friends since second grade, put together their app using MIT's App Inventor program as a way to reduce the number of teens who text while driving.

"We read that more than 3,000 teens die each year from car crashes related to cellphones," Springer said.

The app measures how fast the phone is traveling and, if a user starts texting, an alert pops up.

"If you're texting while driving, first, it gives you a warning saying, 'Stop driving or else I will send a message to your mother,'" Chaudhuri said.

The second warning features a button that forces the user to send the alert to a preset number — often a parent — in order to exit the service. It's either that or put away the phone for the rest of the drive.

The girls got the app to work, but it's not currently available for downloading. However, they hope to take the project further, as King encouraged them to do during the awards ceremony.

"In previous years, some of our inventions have actually been patented and manufactured," she told students and parents in the quad during the ceremony. "I would not be surprised from walking around to see some of those inventions on shelves in future years."

King used a former student as an example — a boy who had undergone multiple surgeries on his legs that kept him in braces and casts.

His invention was "shorts and underwear that had Velcro so that he could get dressed by himself in the morning," King said. "That was patented."

Awards were given out according to grade, with seventh- and eighth-graders' entries combined.

Along with third-place winners Chaudhuri and Springer, other fifth-grade winners were: Amy Forester, third place; Andrew Forster, second place; Emma Gonzalez and Gaine Aghavelyan, first place; and Givanni Kocharian Colapietro, first place.

Sixth-grade winners were Chris Leventhal and Nikitas Klapsis, third place; Gavi Long, Talia Beuzet and Aya Baker, second place; and Hunter Pruett, first place.

Along with first-place winner Minasian, other seventh- and eighth-grade winners were Lori Bodner, third place; and Julien Owhadi, second place.

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