Polymer-Focused Outreach Group Continues to Inspire and Educate Students in the 10th Edition of the Rubber Band Contest for Young Inventors


Sophia Thibodeaux, Arts and Leisure division winner, with her invention "Trebuchet!"

The Rubber Band Contest for Young Inventors is an annual nation-wide competition that challenges young students to design and create an invention or artwork that utilizes at least 1 rubber band in some way. The results each year are astounding, and the 2018 contest was no exception.

The contest began in 2008 when the Akron Global Polymer Academy (AGPA) first imagined designing an educational contest that could: create an engaging pathway for teachers to introduce STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) concepts to their students; and that could utilize hands-on learning to highlight polymers and make them more relatable and exciting.

Rachel Pizzolato, Science and Engineering division winner, with her invention "The Halo (Wrist and Hand Rehab)"

Sponsored by the American Chemical Society’s Rubber Division, the Rubber Band Contest for Young Inventors is now a decade-long annual tradition for AGPA and the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering at The University of Akron. Each year hundreds of 5th – 8th graders from across the U.S. enter the contest by submitting photographs of their projects along with written essays and more. The top six highest scoring entries in two separate divisions (Arts & Leisure, Science & Engineering) move on to become finalists and ship their actual projects to Akron, Ohio for a final round of judging. Cash prizes are awarded to the winners, runners-up and remaining finalists, as well as the top eight schools with the most entries.

Over 350 students from 14 different states entered the tenth annual contest. This year’s contestants submitted a variety of creative solutions including games, artworks, inventions, and engineering projects.

Mary Lepore, Arts and Leisure division runner-up, with her invention "Songs from Yesterday"

Ohio sixth grader Sophia Thibodeaux was the grand prize winner in the Arts & Leisure division. Her winning entry—an original board game called Trebuchet!—is described by Sophia as “a more interactive game that makes learning fun and interesting with trivia facts.” Rubber bands were incorporated throughout Thibodeaux’s project and were an important factor in making the game portable. As Sophia noted, “Trebuchet folds up into an easy-to-carry box with a handle and latches…this game can travel almost everywhere!”

In the Science & Engineering division, Louisiana eighth grader Rachel Pizzolato took home the top prize with her invention The Halo (Wrist and Hand Rehab). Pizzolato described her winning project as “a rehabilitation and exercise device for the wrist, hand and fingers.” Interestingly, Rachel’s inspiration for the invention came from an unexpected place: “I had a few cool ideas…then…my brother broke his hand! He was very disappointed that his season in football was coming to a premature end, so I knew that I wanted to help him, and because of his broken hand, the idea for my invention had its origins.” The Halo included rubber bands throughout its design and the polymers played an important role in the device’s customizable features, which included the ability to vary the levels of resistance and swap different exercise components.

Soham Joshi, Science and Engineering division runner-up, with his invention "Rubber Band Enhanced Water Condensation Tower"

Mary Lepore, an eighth grade student from Ohio, was this year’s Arts & Leisure runner-up. She created a work of art called Songs from Yesterday—a beautiful artistic rendition of a vintage record player. Mary offered this insight into her work: “The twisting buttons, removable record, spinning turntable, and rotating needle can spark conversation and engage viewers. For adults, seeing the piece can bring back nostalgia for their childhood or teenage years. For the kids and teens of today, the piece could be a catalyst for creativity and discovery.”

Ohio eighth grader Soham Joshi finished as the runner-up in the Science & Engineering division with his invention the Rubber Band Enhanced Water Condensation Tower, a device designed “to be the much needed source of potable water in places where water is a scarce resource.” As Soham explained, “My invention makes the current water condensation towers more effective by using the energy and entropy of stretched and contracted rubber bands and causing a cooling effect that makes the water condensation process more effective thereby collecting more water from the atmosphere.”

The first-place winner in each division received $600, the runners-up from each division received $300, and the four remaining finalists in each division received $150. Additionally, the top eight schools with the most entries received a $200 donation. Visit the official contest website to view all of the finalists’ entries and see a list of the top eight schools: rubberbandcontest.org

Thank you to the Rubber Division, ACS for their generous, continued support of this contest!

The AGPA is the K-12 outreach division of the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering (CPSPE) at The University of Akron and focuses on providing opportunities for teachers and students of all ages to experience the exciting world of polymers.