Young inventors win research award


Big Brain Theory team members from left to right: Ellie Plaster, Nicole Tysa, Emily Czubaj, Sylvia Cressman, Kate Lochridge and Caitlin Zollinger. Behind them are coaches Heidi Cressman, left, and Shari Tysa.

Mission: Stay on track. Rodney the Robot may have slipped off the rails, but its creators are on the fast track to entrepreneurial and scientific success, poised to secure a patent for their innovative, self-fastening shoe.

Big Brain Theory, a team of six girls from North Canton Middle School, saw its mobile robot tumble off the track in the third round of the FIRST Lego League district championship at The University of Akron on Sunday.

But the team’s coach, Heidi Cressman, mechanical engineer and director ofUA's Women in Engineering program, says the team has lost no steam (or self-esteem) and plans to get right back on track and compete again next year.

Team wins research award

And the team members have reason to be confident.

In another portion of the competition, the Big Brain Theory team won the Research Award for its design of a special shoe for senior citizens that fastens itself to a wearer's foot at the tap of a toe. Cressman, who won the competition’s Coach/Mentor Award, has been meeting with Reebok executives to discuss material selection and style.

Cressman, whose seventh-grade daughter Sylvia is on the team, is determined to inspire the entrepreneurial and inventive spirit within her Big Brain Theory team members. The team is in the process of filing a provisional patent on the shoe.

"There is nothing like this currently being patented," says Cressman. She adds that people in the health care industry are excited about the shoe, and that it may be used by veterans and children as well.

The competition’s winning team, the Nerd Herd, will stampede to the state level of competition. The colorfully named Flaming Narwhals placed second.

 Story by Nicholas Nussen

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