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February 19th, 2014

Four Highland Central School District Students Rank in National Science Competition

Emily DeFini, a freshman at Highland High School, stands with her former Computer and Technology teacher Michael Watts. Watts helped inspire DeFini to create her invention called the “Beat the Heat Bat Warmer.”

HIGHLAND – Four Highland High School (HHS) students have been recognized for inventions they created for a science competition while they were at Highland Middle School (HMS) last year.

For the last 28 years, HMS computer and technology teacher Michael Watts has had his students create an invention to submit to different national contests. Last year’s submissions were sent to the National Gallery for America’s Young Inventors competition through the National Museum of Education, which is headquartered in Akron, OH.

The Museum recently announced its winners who met their criteria of creativity, uniqueness, and usefulness. Students who were chosen were Kathryn Russo, who invented rearview mirrors for ski poles, Andrew Valentino for his waterproof ear buds, Azaria Donaldson for her bread toaster and butter cutter, and Emily DeFini for her softball bat warmer.

The four young inventors were recently contacted by the museum and were encouraged to submit a short video showcasing and explaining prototypes of their inventions. Both DeFini and Russo were able to meet the tight turnaround for demonstrating their prototype for submission and, acccording to the Museum’s spokesperson Gay Evans, both videos will be looked at for consideration at being featured on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

DeFini’s invention is a device she claims will take away the sting in one’s arms that is caused when a batter uses a cold bat to hit a ball. She says when the composites in her bat become cold they resonate, causing a stinging sensation to go up inside her arm. But when you heat the bat up and the composites become warm, the problem is solved. DeFini says, "No sting allows a batter to concentrate on hitting the ball, which ultimately leads to better hitting consistency."

DeFini named her new product "Beat the Heat Bat Warmer," and says that while it emulates the concept behind other bat warmers, such as the bat bag that gets heated inside a microwave or the bat box that gets heated by cans of Sterno, her invention has characteristics that make it unique. "The difference in my invention is that it costs less than those other products and is very portable, no microwave needed."

The bat sleeve is actually made from a knee high sock with six pouches sewn on the sides of it. The pouches are then filled with hand warmers (a product commonly used in outdoor activities), which help heat up the bat.

Russo’s video shows her skiing down a small hill with ski poles adapted with a pair of rear view mirrors. She explained that her invention allows a skier to see activity that’s taking place behind them. Russo said this invention was created from her own experiences while skiing. "When I was first learning how to ski, I was always afraid of those skiers and snowboarders who came whizzing past me from behind because I couldn’t see them."

Watts, who is always amazed by what kids come up with, said, "I’m impressed by their thought processes. They each identified a problem, and came up with a solution. It’s this kind of stuff that makes teaching the best job."

When asked if these inventions could be sold on the open market, Watts replied, "Definitely. I hope they go out and get it patented."

When DeFini was asked about the chance at meeting Jimmy Fallon, she replied, "Oh my gosh, I think I would faint."

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