Not many adults can say they helped create a life saving invention that would later get a patent, let alone a group of middle schoolers. In middle school, now senior Caroline Maloney and her friends, involved in Lunsford’s First Lego League robotics team, worked together to create a life jacket styled hoodie that would serve as everyday wear and protection in case of flooding or any other natural disaster. The team went as far as creating a prototype and getting a legal services pro bono; a process that would help patent the life jacket conveniently named The Floodie.
Although the team worked hard creating The Floodie during the First League Robotics in middle school, the patent for the jacket is an accomplishment they achieved this year. After The Floodie was entered into the robotics competition, Maloney’s team had to seek out legal help in order to attain a patent. Eventually, The Floodie was picked up by the law firm Oblon-Spivak, and they started their journey.
Working with Oblon-Spivak may have been a big step for the middle school robotics team, but they still faced challenges. The group had to endure an excruciatingly long wait for the patent to be approved. The patent approval process can typically take 2-5 years, and most of the time inventions do not get approved the first try. Despite having the jacket rejected, they continued to improve their invention.
“When [the patent] came back we were not surprised at all it hadn’t been accepted, so they basically made corrections to it,” Maloney said. “We made edits and then submitted it. We finally got it back, actually on election day, so it was really cool.”
During the waiting process, the team was able to create a working prototype of The Floodie. Junior Connor Patterson helped create the prototype by sewing it together. Once the prototype was created, the team was able to see how their invention operated in action.
“We took the whole team and we went over to Cub Run Rec Center, had each person try it on and jump into the pool to see if it would either kill us or let us live,” Patterson said. “It went pretty well.”
By testing the prototype, the team was able to see their progress in action. After completing both the legal process and the prototype, Maloney and her sister, Grace Maloney, decided it was time to take the jacket into the business world. Since the Lunsford FLL team had already received the patent, the Maloneys used their previous experience to make their invention available for practical use.
“We’ve kind of thrown around creating a business plan for it, like I said it was never initially created with the intent of forming a business,” Maloney said. “One cool thing that my sister and I have done is we’ve entered in DECA, so we’ve looked at creating a business plan for it.”