A teenager from Southington, Conn, is the champion of the first-ever National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo (NICEE), held in May at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in Alexandria, Va.
Lucca Riccio, an 8th grader, won the award for his “Message Mask”—a Bluetooth-enabled noise-canceling CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) medical device that helps patients communicate clearly with loved ones while receiving air pressure through the mask. The Message Mask won the “Most Marketable Product,” beating out more than 260 entries from competitors representing 15 states across the United States.
More than 120 judges from intellectual property-focused law firms, US Government departments, corporations, teachers, and others from the Washington, D.C. area and from as far away as California judged the competition.
“The level of invention was outstanding and worthy of a national competition,” says NICEE 2016 organizer Danny Briere, CEO of The STEMIE Coalition, the event host, in a release. “When you have students as young as second graders being considered for the Best-in-Show award, and third graders winning for Best Prototype, you know it is an incredibly innovative field of inventors.”
Riccio’s Message Mask solves a key problem for CPAP users, the inventor says: having difficulty being understood due to the noise of the airflow and mouth-covering plastic cover. Riccio thought of the idea when in the emergency room with his grandmother, as his uncle rushed cross-country to her bedside. “He wanted to talk to her, he was scared he would not make it there in time. But the phone could not pick up her voice over the noise of the machinery in the room, and I could not understand her through the muffled mask to tell him what she was saying,” says Riccio. “My Bluetooth-enabled noise canceling microphone would have picked up her voice and relayed it to the smartphone as well as to a local speaker, so everyone could hear.”
Riccio has filed for patent protection with the USPTO for his invention, and is working to commercialize his product into the market this year.
“All of the products that we evaluated for the Most Marketable Product award were so incredible, and the inventors so poised and prepared,” says Christine Heckart, chief marketing officer for Brocade Communications Systems, Inc, the firm that sponsored this Best-in-Show honor. “What made the Message Mask stand out was its ability to impact a large a group of people worldwide. This innovation could be used in homes and hospitals worldwide, helping patients, staff and families communicate with loved ones at a critical time in their lives.”