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Chattanooga’s Young Innovators


The Young Innovator Award, presented by Office Depot in conjunction with our Spirit of Innovation event, recognizes recipients in elementary, middle and high school categories. Winning concepts demonstrate potential for community impact, promote STEM knowledge and show leadership and initiative.

Elementary School Recipient:  Animal Cam

Maya Halenar, 5th Grader, Normal Park Museum Magnet​
Halenar’s idea for an animal cam collar features a tracker to help find a lost pet anywhere in the world. The collar would connect to Google Maps, record the animal’s location and alert an app that tells you where to find your furry companion.

Elementrary School Finalists:

Lucie DeGaetano, 5th Grader, Normal Park Museum Magnet
DeGaetano’s idea is an electric dictionary in the form of a bookmark. 

Ephrem Talley, 5th Grader, Normal Park Museum Magnet
Talley's idea transforms a classic weed eater into a handheld tool that can trim both shrubs and grass.

Middle School Recipient:  Tiny House

Jackson Manning, 7th Grader, Normal Park Museum Magnet
Manning’s cost-effective tiny house concept is a small battery-operated living space, charged much like a hybrid car, which could also attach to the back of a vehicle. In addition to the charging option, these tiny houses could also run on normal gasoline or be solar-powered, depending on which option is most accessible.

Middle School Finalists:

Isabella Lehman, 7th Grader, Normal Park Museum Magnet
Lehman looks to the sky with her invention of telescope glasses with gears on the side to adjust the settings.

Silas Wiltshire, 7th Grader, Normal Park Museum Magnet
Wiltshire hopes to create conversation among her peers with Table Talks – a vinyl cover for lunch tables with games using various lunch trash items as game pieces.

High School Recipient: Coding for Girls

Ellie Betts, 12th Grader, STEM School Chattanooga
Betts created an elementary and middle school curriculum that teaches girls how to code, with the goal of getting girls excited about coding and STEM careers through gender-neutral activities in an all-girl environment. This program is unique because it does not require instructors to know any coding to deliver the curriculum. Betts has educated 75 girls in coding camps with this curriculum, with 200 students on a waiting list.

High School Finalists:

Dell Zimmerman, 12th Grader, Chattanooga School for the Arts and Science
Zimmerman’s idea is a probe to measure long-term water conditions in streams damaged by acid mine drainage.

Evan Buttram, 12th Grader, Red Bank High School
Buttram's drone idea flies over waterways taking aerial photos to check water quality, using mapping to identify where the water quality is bad and where it is good. 

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