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Iowa school team invention makes semifinals

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — Eleven Dubuque high school students are semifinalists in a national competition for innovative inventions.

The Wahlert Catholic High School team developed the Feltes One Way, a universal anti-rollback device for manual wheelchairs that prevents them from rolling backward on inclines.

The invention has landed the students among the top 30 semifinalists in the 2014-2015 Lemelson-MIT InventTeams competition, the Dubuque Telegraph Herald reported ( ).

The students will learn next week if their team is one of 15 finalists that will receive up to $100,000 to work on the invention for the rest of the school year. If selected, they will present their final design in Boston at MIT's EurekaFest in June.

The invention was inspired by a family member of one of the team's students, Rachel Hefel. Hefel said her late grandfather, Jim Feltes, told students two years ago during a different competition that he had a problem with his manual wheelchair rolling backward on inclines.

Before he died, Hefel showed Felts the original prototype. She said she is honored the team named the device in honor of her grandfather.

Team members didn't find any devices in production focused on preventing rollback in wheelchairs that are similar to the Feltes One Way. The team has spent countless hours trying to create a device that would work universally and is inexpensive.

"It's gone through a lot of changes," team member Fiona Burns said.

Students learned about the competition from Wahlert science teacher Bob Oberfoell, who coaches the team with Rick Hefel, a religion/science teacher at Mazzuchelli Catholic Middle School.

If the Wahlert team is selected as a finalist, the students plan to create a prototype of their device and collaborate with more area businesses.


Information from: Telegraph Herald,

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