Just as Perry Hill sixth grader Joseph Bisson was preparing to go to bed one night this month, he received an email alerting him that an invention he created had earned him a spot in a national competition that is set to take place in Washington, D.C., next month.
“I was getting ready for bed when my mom came in my room screaming, ‘You’re going to Washington!’”
The Bender Preventer
Bisson said he could never have guessed that his invention, which addresses a common pain experienced by hockey players and skaters, would be so well received.
“I honestly didn’t even think I was going to make it this far, so this is probably one of the only inventions I’ll ever make,” said Bisson. “It’s been a lot of fun, though.”
Bisson’s invention is called the “Bender Preventer.”
A “bender” is a hockey term used to describe when your skates, or high top shoes, for that matter, “bend” inward, making the material rub against your ankles and often causing discomfort and in some cases injuries.
“It can also slow you down while you’re skating, and makes it more difficult,” said Bisson.
The idea came as a part of a discussion in school in which students were evaluating the problems they all encounter.
Because Bisson is himself a hockey player, he had the idea to invent something that could help players.
“One of the issues that came to my mind was never being able to tie my skates tight enough,” Bisson said in discussing the process of developing his idea. “Now that we’re older, our parents aren’t allowed to come inside to tie our skates, so I decided to invent something that could help me out, and this is what I came up with.”
The invention is a suspender buckle the laces go through. It allows the skater to tighten the top of the skate as much as needed, and is meant to adjust to the size of any given ankle to offer additional support. Velcro keeps it in place.
Bisson said it was a trial-and-error process that helped him develop his prototype.
“I tried making the strap go around the foot and the ankle, but that didn’t work because I couldn’t find a way to connect them, and finding something that would fit over the entire skate was difficult,” said Bisson. “Then I decided to create something that just wrapped around the ankle, since that was the main problem.”
He said he’s still tweaking the idea and has thought of using a stronger metal and form of Velcro.
“My friend Mark and I tested it at a practice, and it worked and stayed on perfectly,” said Bisson. “The only thing I would do is find a stronger metal so that it couldn’t break if it got hit by a puck. It has already gotten hit and didn’t break, but just in case.”
Bisson’s journey to D.C
Bisson is the first Perry Hill student to advance to this level of the Invention Convention, and he said the level of competition has been impressive.
Bisson was one of five students to win out of a pool of 50 students competing at Perry Hill before he advanced to the regional competition at Western Connecticut State University. At WCSU, Bisson was one of 500 students from grades one to eight competing.
According to Bisson’s teacher that helps students with their inventions, Michele Piccolo, the students were placed in groups of nine and took turns presenting their inventions to people. The top three or four out of each group were selected to move on to the state competition at UConn. The state competition had the same dynamics, except there were nearly 700 competitors. Only 30 were selected.
Bisson was one of those 30 and earned an award for the sports category.
“I won the ESPN award, which was for the best invention for sports,” said Bisson.
As he prepares for the next level of competition, Bisson said, he’s excited but nervous.
Bisson just finished recording a video that is required for the competition, in which the inventors introduce and explain their creations.
“It took a bunch of takes, but we finally got it after using cue cards,” said Bisson.
Piccolo said this is her third year assisting students in this competition, and Bisson’s performance has made her proud.
“Every year we get a little better with our designs and ideas,” said Piccolo. “I know how much the students that I’ve worked with have put into this, so I was super proud that we’ve done so well in this competition.”