Some brainy students from a Manhattan high school have punched their ticket to the annual White House science fair by inventing a machine that straphangers would appreciate. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.
The subway won't take you to the White House, but it's helping these students from the Baruch College Campus High School InvenTeam to get there. Their invention, a vacuum to suck trash off the subway tracks, will be displayed Wednesday an the annual White House Science Fair.
"It's a great opportunity to let everyone know about the vacuum that we built, the problem in our city, and that we're trying to solve it," said Amro Halwah, a member of the Baruch College Campus High School InvenTeam.
The students created a prototype of a vacuum that could attach to the MTA's work trains. And as every straphanger knows, the MTA could use the help. Old bottles, newspapers and other debris frequently find their way onto the tracks. About 40 tons of garbage are removed from the tracks and the trash cans in the subways every day.
The students say their invention is smaller and more efficient that the MTA's vacuum trains.
"We're creating the perfect envioronment for the rodents that come in and out of the tracks," said Stephen Mwingira of the Baruch College Campus High School InvenTeam. "It's still pretty amazing that people have not been able to cooperate with the MTA to throw away the trash."
"This is not only about whether it's clean or whether there will be rats. It's also about the track fires that will be created if there was too much trash," said Wendy Ni of the Baruch College Campus High School InvenTeam.
The students are the city's only entry in the fair, which this year will feature 38 projects from 26 states.
"I never thought this could happen, and it will be interesting to see that other kids around the country are also working together to solve problems in their communities," Mwingira said.
Helping to develop the project was an $8,000 grant from Lemelson-MIT Program and technical mentorship from Con Edison.
"They needed our help in order to make it functional. And we tried our best to help them out, and they made a good product," said Dean Gordon of Con Edison, an adviser for the InvenTeam.
"We're a small school. We don't have a shop. So it's amazing that we even created this prototype in the back of my classroom. So we're like the little engine that could," said Melody Kwan, the InvenTeam's faculty adviser.
After their trip to Washington, the students hope to get the attention of officials at the MTA, where an agency spokesman called their project a "pretty neat invention."