Inventing to help others

Someday the annals of history may place young inventor Chandler Macocha’s name along side that of giants such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison.
The Oxford Middle School seventh-grader was recently named one of six national finalists in the sixth-through-eighth-grade category of the 2003 Sears Craftsman/National Science Teachers Association Young Inventors Awards Program.
‘I was really surprised and happy that I had accomplished that much,? said Macocha of his achievement. ‘I never really thought I would be able to do that. I was just really overwhelmed with the news.?
Macocha’s winning invention, dubbed a ‘Wheelchair Backpack Holder,? enables a wheelchair’s backpack to swivel forward conveniently via a hand-operated lever.
The invention earned Macocha a $5,000 U.S. Savings Bond, which he plans to put toward his college education, and a trip for himself, his parents (Michael and Lisa) and his science club adviser (OMS teacher Kristin Breil) to the national awards ceremony this September in Chicago.
At the national ceremony, hosted by well-known home improvement guru Bob Vila, the top two winners will receive an additional $5,000 bond.
More than 8,000 students nationwide in grades two through eight entered this year’s competition, but only 12 were selected as national finalists.
For earning a spot as a national finalist, Macocha was honored with a special presentation at OMS Tuesday morning at which Diane McMasters, assistant store general manager of the Sears at Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi, presented the young inventor with a banner for the school, T-shirt and Craftsman hat, certificate signed by Bob Vila, $100 Sears gift card for himself, $100 gift card for Breil, $250 gift card for the school and a selection of gifts for his classmates.
When asked the reason behind his device, Macocha said he wanted to invent something to help people in wheelchairs and make their lives easier.
His first idea was to build a ‘portable tray? to attach to a wheelchair, but after two weeks of research, he discovered a similar device already existed.
The young inventor said he got the idea for his winning creation after questioning a wheelchair-bound former neighbor, Jo Ann Thomas, about the problems she encounters on a daily basis.
The neighbor told Machocha that ‘getting stuff out of her backpack was a big problem? because it was hard for her to reach behind the chair.
About two months later, Macocha built the ‘Wheelchair Backpack Holder? to solve this problem.
‘I’m pretty proud of him,? Thomas said of Macocha. ‘He’s a very clever young man. It was very nice of him (to invent this device) and I hope he wins the national (award).?
Macocha said he’s looking into making his invention battery-operated (which was not allowed in the contest) so it could be used by people in wheelchairs who can’t operate a lever.
Inventing has always been a hobby for Macocha who said he’s constantly ‘creating little things. . .mostly out of paper? and is presently attempting to build a robot.
When asked why he likes inventing new things, Macocha replied, ‘It’s a way that I can express how I feel and help the world with everyday life.?
When he grows up, Macocha said he wants to be ‘some sort of engineer, like at NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Agency).?
Macocha is a member of the OMS Science Club founded earlier in the school year by Breil and Mary Stein, an OMS parent and professor at Oakland University.
Breil described Macocha as a ‘very, very smart? young man.
‘He’s a very good science student,? she said. ‘So, I wasn’t surprised at all that he did so well? in the competition.
Breil said ‘people were very impressed? with Macocha’s invention and ‘they all wanted to see what it looked like.?