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Meet the high school gadget inventors

A robotic coconut-tree climber, a Web 2.0 pancake maker and a human-powered irrigation pump are just a few of the projects entered in this year's Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams Program.

High schools not only house next year's basketball legend, but also the future gadget mastermind.

Take, for example, the robotic coconut-tree climber, Web 2.0 pancake maker and human-powered irrigation pump entered in this year's Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams Program, a 5-year-old initiative to grant money to high school inventors. This year, Lemelson-MIT awarded grants of up to $10,000 to 16 high school teams from around the country.

In honor of the prolific inventor Jerome Lemelson, the program is designed to encourage creativity among high-schoolers and encourage studies in math and science. To win the grant money, teams must identify a real-world problem and invent a practical solution for it. Next spring, the teams will demonstrate their inventions at the "InvenTeams Odyssey" at MIT in Cambridge, Mass.

Among the participants are the Charles Herbert Flowers High School in Springdale, Md., which is developing a portable lock device for the blind; the Great River School in St. Paul, Minn., which is working on an aerial wind-sensing device that can determine ideal locations for wind turbines; and West Valley High School in Spokane, Wash., which invented a fish "escalator" to ferry salmon over man-made dams.

"We can't wait to see the prototypes these students will invent and the relationships they will form through this experience," Leigh Estabrooks, the Lemelson-MIT Program's InvenTeams grants officer, said in a statement.