Hamden fifth-grader’s wearable straw invention earned national award
HAMDEN — A local elementary school student has won a national award for an invention that tackles sustainability and environmental concerns across the country.
Aedan Flanagan, a fifth-grader at Spring Glen Elementary School, earned a top award at the 2019 Invention Convention for inventing a reusable straw that can be worn as a bracelet, which he calls a SipBit.
Aedan won the statewide Invention Convention, which got him a spot at the national competition of about 160,000 students in grades K-12. Aedan’s invention earned him the Environmental and Sustainability Industry Innovation Award.
Aedan had been living in Ireland for two years before returning to Spring Glen last year and said that’s part of what made him think about what he could do for the environment.
Many schools in Ireland collaborate with Green-Schools, an international program that implements environmental education programs in . In Ireland, Aden was involved in his local Green-Schools club and when he moved back to Hamden, he wanted to spread what he’d learned about environmental awareness in his community.
“I thought it was my turn to start contributing,” he said.
Earlier this year, Hamden enacted a plastic bag ban and a restriction on single-use plastic straws in restaurants in an effort to reduce plastic waste, and Aedan’s invention furthers that effort.
Aedan knew many people already use reusable straws at home, but often forget to take them along when they go out. So he wanted to find a way that would make it easy and fun for people to bring their straws with them.
Aedan thought the easiest way for someone to carry a straw was to wear it.
He noticed that kids his age already like wearing collectable bracelets — such as Silly Bandz, slap bracelets and rubber bracelets with brand or event names etched on them — so he used that idea in his invention by adding shareable, tradeable, collectable charms to each SipBit.
“I thought if kids wanted to wear it they’d carry it with them,” he said.
Back at Spring Glen Elementary School, Aden got involved in the Invention Convention, a passion project of educator Shelby Irwin. The same program is run by Lisa Kingston at Bear Path. The program provides students with a creative opportunity to build their inventions themselves, learn about the invention process, find solutions to problems and present their ideas, Irwin said.
“Aedan came in fired up and ready to go,” she said. “Parents often want to take ownership of the projects but the kids who believe and take ownership of their own projects are really successful. Aedan was impassioned from the beginning.”
The program guides the students through the invention process, helps them test their ideas and improve upon them. Aedan had the idea stirring in his head for some time before he made his first prototype, Aedan said. He tried a variety of materials to make the straw and once he found something that worked, added the tradeable pieces so kids would want to sport them wherever they went.
“I admit, I didn’t get it at first,” Aedan’s father, Chris Flanagan, said, but when he saw how other students at his son’s school got excited about it, he could finally see the appeal.
Irwin said every generation, kids are wearing some form of bracelet that is trendy to collect or to make, which is where the SipBit fits in.
“Every year I see some iteration of a bracelet and the environmental impact makes it really special,” Irwin said of the SipBit.
Aedan and his dad are in the process of getting the SipBit patented.