One in three senior citizens, or about 12 million Americans, take a fall every year. Those falls can result in serious injuries, sometimes even death, when an elderly person doesn't get help quickly.
Some eastern Iowa middle schoolers are trying to help solve that problem with their own invention.
Most of us look at Legos as just toys. But for some students at Denver Community Schools, they're the building blocks of an invention -- one that could help prevent injuries and even save lives.
Carter Krueger is a smart kid. He and classmates in Denver's Lego Club are so smart, in fact, they've invented a device called an artificial vestibular system.
"It'd be kind of like a cochlear implant, which would be for hearing," Krueger said. "It clips behind your ear, and then there's a little magnet thing right here, and the wire would run to that and then transmit the signal to the inside one that has a wire running down to your vestibular nerve."
The vestibular nerve is the body's way of controlling balance. In seniors, it can easily get off whack causing them to fall.
The system these students have created is a simple model that sends an electronic signal when balance changes.
If the concept is developed into an actual ear implant, that system would tell the brain where the balance problem is, subconsciously helping the body get its balance back to normal.
"I think it's very cool and important because then it would help seniors from falling and they wouldn't have to break bones or anything like that," Krueger said.
It's such a cool idea that the students recently earned a top prize at a regional competition. The next step for them is fine-tuning their invention to help get it patented and potentially marketed to manufacturers so it can be tested and implanted in real people.
The Denver students have also submitted their project to be considered for the world competition, which happens in St. Louis next month. They'll find out if they've been accepted for that competition in a couple weeks.
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