Chapel Hill teen wins patent award for invention

Feb. 09, 2013 @ 02:45 PM

Chase Lewis, the 13-year-old inventor of the “Refugee Travois,” has been named a patent winner in the Smithsonian-ePals Global Kids Invention Challenge.
The travois is a device people can strap to their waists to pull heavy loads, including people.
Lewis invented his wheeled travois after he heard about starving refugees in Somalia who had to leave their sick and dying children by the roadside because they could no longer carry them.
The contest asked people to vote online for the winner among finalists who were selected from all over the world. A 9-year-old girl from Mississippi who invented a solar light to light up the inside of a woman’s purse won the popular vote, but the organizers of the contest also selected four other inventions, including Lewis’s travois, and named them patent winners.
As a patent winner, the law firm of Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough, LLP, will analyze Lewis’s invention to determine if it qualifies for patent protection. If it does, the firm will file a patent application for Lewis at no cost.
“These young people will be treated like our most important corporate clients who entrust us to protect their intellectual property,” said Richard W. Riley, a senior partner in the firm and the former U.S. Secretary of Education. “They will interact with our patent attorneys and will come away with a sense of what it means to be part of our great American innovative landscape.”
Lewis would like to patent his travois not so he can make money from it but to keep someone else from making money with his idea.
“I want the travois to be something that nobody is going to use to make money off of,” he said. “I decided a patent would be the best way to protect it.”
If he receives a patent, he plans to include it in a package of information about the travois that he plans to send to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Clinton Foundation in hopes that one of them would be willing to help him arrange for them to be made and distributed in Africa.
In addition to helping parents transport their children, the travois could be used for transporting water and food as well as a tool that subsistence farmers could use instead of a wheelbarrow. He estimates his travois could be made in Africa for about $20 each, which would be less expensive than a wheelbarrow.
Lewis is home-schooled by his mother and said he hardly ever watches TV, saying he finds most of it boring.
“I find it a lot more fun doing stuff,” he said.