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'Genius Hour' inspiring unique products from Bristol middle schoolers

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BRISTOL, Va. - Many of us will never have the opportunity to apply for a patent for a product we have invented. However, there is a group of Bristol, Virginia students who are in the process in just 8th grade. They are part of the technical education program at Virginia Middle School. The seventh and eighth graders are coming up with original designs and marketing some of the high tech items to companies already. Take a Flex-I-Board for example. "It's a smartboard advancement that's made out of silicone," Abigail Clark said. The idea is for the invention to allow students to personally connect with teachers through a portable high-tech invention. Maddy Sage said, "When they do the work, they can just submit it to the bigger one for the teacher to have." These students have already reached out to product manufacturers and prototype companies with interest. In fact, the group for Flex-I-Board has filed for a patent. The ideas all started in Alicia Patrick's technology education classroom and an idea called "genius hour." "If you let people focus on what they're interested in, great things can come of it," Patrick said. It is an idea she says she incorporated into her classes to resemble Google's 20 percent time policy, which was created for employees to work on their individual passions during 20 percent of their work week. Patrick said, "The whole goal of this is to their little spark of an idea and turn it into an actual reality." The time has inspired another group of students to create a mobile recycling station for a fellow student who is wheelchair bound. Others include a table and app for those who do not want to sit alone, a relaxing space for students and teachers, and a garden to feed ducks students will soon incubate. In fact, Patrick says it does not matter what the project is. She is just interested in seeing their passion and creativity... "It's a block that projects a students' work onto a surface, then they can screenshot it and send it to a teacher," Emily Page said of their product, Mege Blocks. The blocks are intended to project an image and screenshot from any surface to send directly to another person. The students already have some supporters. Several local businesses have donated supplies to help make their ideas a reality. The students plan to put their work and accomplishments on display at a special event later this year. We plan to stay in touch and will bring you information on that when all the details are set.

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