HomeNewsPeopleHHS Inventors Earn US Patent for Unique Dual Battery Flashlight

HHS Inventors Earn US Patent for Unique Dual Battery Flashlight

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Nicolette Buonora (L) and Lauren Strechay (R)

To identify real world problems his students can solve, Doug Scott’s Honors Engineering class frequently collaborates with local first responders on their projects.

Nicolette Buonora and Lauren Strechay were freshmen at Hopkinton High School in the fall of 2020 when the school switched to remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although they knew of each other, they didn’t know each other, and they were the only two girls enrolled in Mr. Scott’s Honors Engineering program at Hopkinton High School.

They don’t remember whether one contacted the other or if Mr. Scott paired them because they were the only girls in the program. Either way, Nicolette and Lauren are glad they connected. They’ve become close friends, and they’ve accomplished so much together.

Collaborating through COVID

The project that would earn them so much notoriety was conceived of during their first engineering course together.  Due to COVID, the girls used FaceTime and text messaging to communicate with each other. “It was strange not talking face-to-face,” said Lauren. Added Nicolette, “Yeah, brainstorming over FaceTime and text was challenging.”

When asked how they got the idea for the project, Nicolette said the initial inspiration came from a retractable pen made by Papermate™. By clicking the pen, an internal mechanism rotates, allowing the user to switch between ink colors. The concept of rotating parts to change functionality sparked an idea.

Lauren added, “Originally, we thought our design would be similar to that pen where the batteries spun and flipped, but then we thought it would be too difficult to have a moving part. At that point, we had limited time and very little knowledge of the other things we needed to know.”

In the meantime, they’d been exchanging Q&A videos with the Hopkinton Police Department (HPD). During one of these sessions, Officer Matthew Santoro mentioned that his flashlight often died during late-night shifts. This gave Lauren and Nicolette the idea of incorporating backup batteries into a flashlight.

Lauren & Nicolette worked with HPD to gather feedback that would inform their invention

“Although we originally designed it for police use, we realized during the design process that it could benefit anyone working in the dark,” said Lauren. Nicolette continued, “It could be useful for mechanics or anyone else who needs to do their job in low-light conditions.”

As the world exited the pandemic, Nicolette and Lauren attended school on different days. When they were at school, they could program the 3D printers and make the parts they designed. When they were remote during the COVID lockdown, Mr. Scott helped them with the printing.

A tear-down of the Battery Swap system

During our interview, Nicolette demonstrated the prototype. The device is activated by pressing an orange button, and a small switch on the back allows the user to swap between power sources, so when one set of batteries is depleted, the user can flip the switch, and the light is powered by the second set of batteries, providing an instant backup. This feature ensures continuous light without interruptions.

While showing the flashlight’s interior, Nicolette said, “It’s messy inside because it’s a prototype. We built it during our freshman year, so it’s been around for a while.

“At the end of our first year, we started entering the device in conventions (competitions). We got more involved in the conventions into our sophomore year,” she added

Nicolette explained, “This is a double-pole, double-throw (DPDT) switch, which means it can connect to two different power sources and switch between them.” [For those unfamiliar with electrical engineering, a DPDT switch is a flexible component that controls two separate circuits using a single switch. Its wiring can be intricate for beginners.] She continued, “There are two coin batteries we’re using now. It’s a basic setup; real flashlights don’t use coin batteries. They usually have compartments for AA batteries or a similar size, which we have on the patent.”

“Even a simple circuit can be complicated, especially with limited experience. While simpler than many others, this circuit still presented a learning challenge for us because it contained multiple components,” she explained.

Crushing the Conventions

Invention Conventions are a series of competitions where STEM students who have developed tangible inventions, typically based on their own life experiences, receive a platform to showcase their inventions and gain exposure to large audiences.

The competitions typically start at the state or regional level, depending on the location. The top-performing students are then invited to participate in the US National Invention Convention, which takes place at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Afterward, the top students from the US and Mexico are invited to compete virtually in the America’s Invention Convention.

Due to COVID, the Battery Swap team had to compete virtually. They made a video presentation of their product for the first round of the Invention Convention in Massachusetts at MIT. It wasn’t a big challenge since they could use the same materials they had already prepared for class.

But everything changed when they learned they’d made it to the next round. They needed to create a new video for the US National Invention Convention. 

“Oh my gosh, that was fun! It was a different experience making the video to send in for the US National Invention Convention,” said Lauren.

In 2024, the Invention Conventions returned to in-person competitions, and by sheer coincidence, Hopkinton High hosted the Massachusetts Invention Convention. “It was crazy to finally present in person for the first time after doing it virtually for three years,” said Nicolette.

When asked about the difficulty of presenting virtually versus in person, they both found it more challenging to do it virtually. Discussing their invention in person came naturally, easily delivered without a script. However, with a video presentation, everything had to be carefully scripted and rehearsed to ensure a smooth delivery.

A Patent is Awarded

The girls went on to win several awards, including the Industry Merit Award for Energy at the 2021 Massachusetts Invention Convention, a top prize at the National Invention Convention hosted by the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan in June 2021, and recognition at the Global Invention Convention in August 2021.

By winning at the National Convention, they pair received a prize that included sponsorship by a patent attorney, enabling them to apply for a patent for their invention. 

The students acknowledged that it became increasingly challenging to balance their other classwork once they began working on the patent and needed to submit circuit diagrams to their patent attorney. This process demanded extra hours outside of their regular school hours. However, they were both very motivated and found a way to make it work.

Circuit diagram for the Battery Swap flashlight

The US Patent and Trademark Office awarded US-11892131-B2 on Feb 6, 2024

When they got the news that their patent has been issued the girls were shocked and speechless. “It took two years of waiting, maybe even more. It felt like a long time—almost my entire high school career. It didn’t hit me that we’d get the patent until it happened,” said Lauren”

Nicolette added, “Yeah, the attention we got was surprising. To receive recognition on a national level was surprising to both of us.”

What’s Next for this Dynamic Duo?

Lauren plans to attend the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she’ll be majoring in engineering. She wants to focus on aerospace engineering because she loves anything that flies.

Nicolette recently committed to Wentworth Institute of Technology. She plans to major in general engineering but is also considering electromechanical engineering. 

Lauren and Nicolette have been invited to the US National Invention Convention to join a panel of past inventors who have received patents.

“The battery swap team inspires students in many ways by showing how far you can take your ideas—from the classroom to a US Patent,” said Mr. Scott. “Being invited back as seniors to serve as role models for young inventors and students across the US is a significant honor.”

5 COMMENTS

  1. Love this story. Great idea and superb job following this through to patenting I can not wait to be able to buy one. Keep up the excellent teamwork,

  2. Great story! So happy to hear how inventive and motivated these young people are and the initiative they showed over the years to have taken this invention from an idea to proof of concept to a patent.

  3. This is such a wonderful story Paula!
    Thank you for writing it.
    Lauren and Nicolette are two very impressive girls. I wish them the very best their futures.

  4. As one who has had the pleasure of accepting Doug Scott’s invitation to review the work of ‘his’ kids, it pleases me to report that one should not believe everything that one reads about “kids these days.” There is some great talent coming out of his program including, most obviously, Lauren and Nicolette.

    Well done!

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