The GRCTC wins nationwide grant for first responder project

Students of the GRCTC with the prototype that won the Lemelson-MIT Inventeam Grant.

The Gilbreath-Reed Career and Technical Center (GRCTC) was one of 13 teams nationwide to win a $10,000 Lemelson-MIT Inventeam Grant.

The students received the award for having invented a system to sanitize firefighters’ boots to help prevent the spread of communicable diseases. They were winners in the health invention category and with the funds they will be able to build onto their prototype.

“It's a concern for them because they walk through a lot of stuff. From all the calls that can range from fires to car crashes, they get everything on their shoes,” engineering teacher Carmen Diaz. “They rarely have time to clean them, and so we are trying to help them in that process especially in that era of COVID where they have to be more aware.”

The GRCTC started the initiative last fall and has collaborated with the firefighting department. They recently found out they were semi-finalists during the summer and had four weeks to write a grant proposal for the $10,000 grant level.

“The scale of it is just how everything has unfolded. My team of students that is working on it now is brand new to the project. They are not the same students who worked on it last year,” Diaz said. “They’ve taken on the charge really well since the first day of school.”

In the past, the GRCTC worked on eco-friendly installations at Park Day Dallas and a Harley Davidson Battle of the Kings category title. Previously, they were able to make an obstacle course for the upstairs firefighters training unit. They have also worked on making athletic wheelchairs for the UT Arlington and the wheelchair basketball team. 

“Who knows what will happen in the next year or two. In the past, it’s pretty much whatever popped up, and that is what we worked on,” Diaz said. “Whether it was a need that came out of the community or something that we came up with to help the community.” 

In the last week, the Garland ISD Board of Education congratulated the students on their efforts and recognized their success for the grant. 

“The virtual world is starting to show its colors because whenever we are at home, we have participated in this for a while,” Senior Josh Hooks said. “Whenever we went to the board meeting yesterday we stood in front of all those people the realization started to sink in, and that was great.”

With the grant, the GRCTC will now be able to use the funds for building the projects and materials to help make it into a reality. The project is expected to be done by next June if everything goes well. 

“We are excited to work with the firefighters. We think it's a noble cause that we are working with these first responders. They seem to be an ignored category when it comes to inventions and helping them,” Diaz said. “There's definitely inventions that are there to help firefighters, but it’s not mainstream knowledge. A lot of first responders have to go through and let alone help them stay healthy. It's been a very humbling experience to learn from the firefighters' side a lot of carcinogens they’re exposed to and the cancer risks that they have.”

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