Young innovators' heart-saving snow shovel is a winner


A 67-year-old man shovels a wet, heavy snow.

The shovel snaps, but the man is grateful -- the break may have saved his life.

Conceived by a group of middle school students from St. Hilary’s School in Fairlawn, the shovel breaks when the user’s heart rate reaches a dangerous level.

The clever invention and its team of young innovators, the Saberbots, received the Presentation Award at the third annual Northeast Ohio FIRST LEGO League district-wide competition held at the UA Student Union Jan. 12.

Addressing nature's fury

The Saberbots received the award for effectively identifying and communicating a problem and proposing its solution to judges and supporters. The competition, with the theme “Nature’s Fury Challenge,” called for student teams to research natural disasters and propose solutions for what can be done when intense natural events such as snowstorms, extreme cold, and hurricanes, meet the places where people work, play, and live.

Northeast Ohio youngsters were instructed to pick a city and research a natural disaster that might impact the area. Students were then tasked with engaging in real-world engineering experiences by researching and presenting their inventive solutions to these disasters. In addition, students built LEGO-based robots to compete against each other on thematic playing surfaces.

The Saberbots picked their own city – Akron – and discovered that the number of heart attack victims increases during and after snowstorms.

University of Akron

The Saberbots

After researching the cause of weather-related heart attacks, the students got to work designing the “Heart-O-Tech,” a prototype snow shovel that will break apart if it detects that a person’s heart rate is rising to unsafe levels.

Related: Former Lego robotics competitor, now UA engineering senior, will judge regional competition, inspire youth

The Northeast Ohio FIRST Lego League District tournament is hosted jointly by UA’s College of Engineering and College of Education. The event provides an opportunity for middle school students in the region to experience science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through a program that is both academic and entertaining while bringing together community members to support and celebrate their achievements.

St. Hilary's video: Students demonstrate the shovel

About the FIRST LEGO League Competition

Founded in 1989 by master inventor Dean Kamen, creator of the famous Segway scooter, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) LEGO League worldwide competition introduces younger students to real-world engineering challenges by building LEGO-based robots to complete tasks on a thematic playing surface. FLL teams, guided by their imaginations and adult coaches, discover exciting career possibilities and, through the process, learn to make positive contributions to society. For more information on FIRST LEGO League, visit

Media contact: Denise Henry, 330-972-6477 or