Published On: Wed, Jan 29th, 2020

Spanish River Students win MIT Grant to Detect Sepsis

Spanish River High School teacher and her students won a $10,000 grant to create a wearable device to monitor symptoms of sepsis.

By Staff Reports

A Spanish River High School teacher and her students were awarded a $10,000 grant to create a wearable device to monitor physiological symptoms of sepsis, the Boca Raton Tribune has learned.

Biotechnology Academy teacher Mary Fish and her 22 students were among 14 teams of high school students from across the country who received the funds to build a technological invention to solve problems of their choice in their communities.

Fish came up with the idea to create the wearable device after her father died from sepsis while in a California rehab facility several years ago.

“He wasn’t being tended to,” Fish, the only winning educator from Florida, told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. “This got me thinking. What about a tunic – something the patient could wear that would monitor the symptoms of sepsis, like respiratory rate and lactate levels, which increase in septic patients?”

The Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam grant is intended to inspire young people to invent technological solutions to real-world problems.

In a rigorous application process, Fish and her team of 22 biotechnology students worked on the project after school and on weekends.

They had to find a fabric for the tunic that is comfortable and conductive and determine a way to detect sepsis symptoms in a non-invasive way.

Their biggest hurdle, however: Because the students are not lab-certified they cannot test the prototype on humans. They, however, are working on inventing an artificial system on which to test it.

“This is a very motivated group,” Fish told the newspaper. “And each one of them can think outside of the box. Also, they don’t get discouraged if something doesn’t go right.”

Fish is known for introducing her students to cutting edge research. In 2017, she was one of six teachers who received the Society for Science & the Public’s STEM Research Grant, which allowed her students to study and conduct diverse types of research on zebrafish.

Team member Lauren Bishop said the experience is preparing her for college where she plans to study biomedical engineering.

“It’s literally what biomedical engineering is — application of the problem-solving techniques of engineering to medicine,” said Bishop, a graduating senior told the newspaper. “Getting this kind of research opportunity in high school will help me for future research projects at the university level.”

Stephanie Couch, executive director of the Lemelson-MIT Program, said she was impressed by this year’s InvenTeams and their commitment to solving important problems in society.

“By drawing on many different disciplines, the InvenTeam initiative helps shape well-rounded students who are better equipped to tackle the technological problems they will face in the modern workplace,” she said in a news release. “Approximately 2,750 students have taken part in the InvenTeam experience, and 35 percent are girls, which is encouraging in a time when women represent only 10 percent of U.S. patent holders.”

Other invention ideas include an automated machine that cleans beach litter, a system to gauge the flow rate of maple sap, and a publicly accessible laundry machine for people experiencing homelessness.

The students will present their project in June at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.   As they prepare for the next phase, they welcome any help, both financially and with resources and expertise to help to make their vision a reality.

For more information or to help, contact Fish at

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