2017-08-31 / Front Page

Student Invention Nets National Prize

Lily Plowman Designs ‘The Finger Saver’ After Young Friend Experiences Accident
By Debra Petkus


Best friends for years, Drew Moser, 9, and Lily Plowman, 12, first met on their school’s basketball court at Drummond Island Elementary School. Now, Lily has won “The Next Great American Inventor” award from Scholastic for “The Finger Saver,” a device she invented after an accident that Drew endured. Best friends for years, Drew Moser, 9, and Lily Plowman, 12, first met on their school’s basketball court at Drummond Island Elementary School. Now, Lily has won “The Next Great American Inventor” award from Scholastic for “The Finger Saver,” a device she invented after an accident that Drew endured. Concern for a friend has led Lily Plowman, 12, of Drummond Island, to invent a device that has earned her a national award. The Finger Saver won this year’s award, and Lily also won a previous award in an invention contest last year.

This year, in “The Next Great American Inventor” contest, students had to complete a worksheet and include a sketch or a written description about an invention they would like to create. Lily’s teacher, also her mother, Elly Plowman, gave students information about the contest by Scholastic one day in early April.

Lily said she didn’t necessarily have an invention in mind that Friday afternoon. But after the weekend, she did.

Her good friend, Drew Moser, 9, experienced an accident Saturday, April 15. He and his cousin Joey were playing tag when his cousin closed the door, catching Drew’s hand and trapping it by his pinkie. Richard Ganzhorn, a surgeon in Sault Ste. Marie, was able to save most of his finger, although Drew will have no feeling in it.

After the accident, he came to school that next Monday with a big bandaged hand. Drew said that his fellow students wanted to see what happened and were crowding him.

“Once they saw it, they hated it,” he said.

Especially Lily.

“I couldn’t imagine it happening to my family,” she said. “There is no way to take back time, but you can begin by preventing it from happening” again.

Lily came up with an invention she titled “The Finger Saver.”

“My invention is an automatic doorstop that saves fingers,” she wrote for the contest. “The “Finger Saver” has electronic eyes that, upon seeing an obstruction near a door’s casing, will drop a V-shaped doorstop, preventing crushed or severed fingers.”

She concluded by saying that manual doorstops do exist, but aren’t practical for such prevention, while her device, once installed, “will always be in place.”

When she researched the topic, she learned that a door can have 80,000 pounds of pressure per square inch, and sever little fingers. She said it was challenging to figure out where to place the sensors and stopper, considering all the options, and she chose it should come from the top to prevent a door from closing.

She also learned, with her parents’ help, that more than 30,000 people suffer the trauma of having severed or crushed fingers in doors, including car doors, in a year.

Mrs. Plowman said the other invention ideas proposed from her class included various prosthetics, a watch for diabetes, and a cord that would clip to a shoe and charge a person’s phone in their pocket.

Six grand prize winners, one winner and runner up in grades 1-2, 3- 4 and 5-6, were selected from 11,000 entries in the national contest.

Lily’s invention was the grand prize winner for grade 5-6. Drew is glad his friend won, and said, “I’m sort of happy, because now it’s going to help lots of other people.”

Lily received $500. She planned to spend it on school clothes and supplies.

Her teacher received a $100 gift card as well as a one-year’s supply of USA Gold Pencils for the classroom from one of the companies associated with the contest.

The sixth grader won another grand prize last year, through another scholastic contest. This time it was an invitation to design something with a 3D printer. Again, a friend’s misfortune guided Lily to come up with an idea.

Mrs. Plowman recalls she told her daughter at that time that she didn’t think her idea was novel enough to win.

Her idea? Lily had a friend who broke his glasses so they wouldn’t hold the lens, and he was upset about it. Mrs. Plowman says students break glasses all the time in school, and she reminded Lily that parents could always order them again.

Lily replied, “You can’t just get glasses if you have a basketball game that night.” With her proposed “fashionista eyewear,” a child would have the ability to print a pair and pop in the lenses.

She won that contest and the school received a 3D Cube printer and supplies. With it, many students enjoyed printing a creation of their own imagination or downloading an item to print, Mrs. Plowman said.

Mrs. Plowman is proud of her school that has an enrollment of fewer than 50 students. The elementary school has had winners in the past, including two students who won a week at Space Camp through an IGA sponsored contest.

Lily and Drew first became friends when they both practiced their love for basketball in the gymnasium. Drew’s mother is also a teacher at the school. This year, Lily will be entering the seventh grade and leaving the island every day to attend DeTour High School. She plans to continue to play sports, a favorite pastime of hers, as well as enjoy her horses. She hopes to become a farrier one day.

Lily wants to continue to invent things, and is currently working on an idea, suggested by a frustrated faculty member, to find a way to loosen the glue on stickers that are attached to school items.

Lily said, “Anything you can do to make the world better, you should try. Try new things.”

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