LAKELAND, Fla. – Thirteen-year-old Christian Herman is proof that innovation can occur at any age. The Lakeland Christian School seventh-grader has invented a pencil grip that helps children improve their handwriting skills – and he’s done it with a little help from the lab team at Florida Polytechnic University.
Constructed using one of Florida Poly’s Makerbot 3D printers, the pencil grip is made from flexible filament, is triangular-shaped, colorful and includes a light. When students press hard enough on the grip, it lights up. This extra pressure on the pencil and on the paper helps improve handwriting and legibility. The grip also trains students to hold their pencil correctly.
“Because of the light and the colors, kids have fun using the grip,” says Christian. “If these students can learn the proper writing form as kids while they’re developing handwriting skills, it will help them for life.”
The invention is already getting noticed. Christian’s pencil grip won first place in the engineering category at the Polk Regional Science and Engineering Fair in February. Next, he’ll compete in the 60th Annual State Science and Engineering Fair of Florida at the end of March. And Christian’s aspirations don’t end with the state science fair. He has a provisional patent on the pencil grip and is working toward a full patent. He’s even launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund it.
“I knew that I wanted to create a project using 3D printing technology. It’s something that really interests me,” says Christian. “I also knew that I wanted to help solve a problem that students were facing. I interviewed several teachers at my school to find out what their students were struggling with and how I could help.”
The answer teachers gave him: handwriting. They told him many children, especially those with special needs, struggle with hand-eye coordination, making their writing hard to read. Christian began to investigate the problem and developed several clay prototypes. The 3D printer at his school wasn’t quite right to complete his project, so Christian turned to Florida Poly. “My mom and I did some research and learned Florida Poly has the biggest Makerbot 3D Printing Lab in the country,” says Christian. “The lab team was really welcoming and excited to help me perfect my product.”
Working alongside Florida Poly’s Chief Information Officer Tom Hull and Instructional Design Engineer Scott Johnson, Christian was able to use the school’s 3D printers to develop a pencil grip to begin testing with kindergarten students and teachers. “It was a lot of fun having someone from the next generation of innovators on our campus, utilizing Florida Poly as the great community asset that it is,” says Tom Hull. “Christian is bright and driven. We simply provided him with the tools he needed and let him do his thing.”
“I’m really grateful to Tom and Scott at Florida Poly for their guidance and support,” says Christian. “My experience at the University really helped take my invention to the next level and has reaffirmed my interest in pursuing a STEM career one day.”
To learn more about Christian’s pencil grip and his journey to patent the product, visit his Kickstarter page at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lightuppencilgrip/light-up-pencil-grip?ref=category_location.