Amherst Regional High School Students Receive Exclusive Engineering Grant to Improve Search and Rescue Efficiency


Technical rescue team training, South Rim, Grand Canyon (2021). Photo: A. Fitzgerarld /

Source: John Fabel, Amherst Regional High School

Amherst Regional High School (ARHS) was recently awarded a Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam® grant in the amount of $7,500 to create an invention geared towards increasing the efficiency of search and rescue operations. ARHS is one of only eight high schools nationwide to be selected for an InvenTeam award this year. 

The ARHS InvenTeam is inventing a solution to problems of search and rescue operations. The survival rate of people lost in remote locations is drastically reduced after only one day, which is why the ARHS InvenTeam aims to increase the efficiency of these operations. John Fabel, ARHS Engineering and Physics teacher, initiated the InvenTeam application process this past summer and worked with the students to prepare the final proposal. A panel of university professors, inventors, entrepreneurs, industry professionals, and college students, including former InvenTeam members now working in industry, selected the grantees. 

The application, submitted by students in the ARHS Aerospace Club under the guidance of Fabel states, “Every week – it seems – The Boston Globe reports on hikers that have become lost or disoriented in the White Mountains or in Maine. While these hikers are often inexperienced, even seasoned hikers can be caught in difficult weather or trail conditions. Rescue teams are deployed to locate the lost hikers, determine their condition, and bring them to safety. It is dangerous work that puts the rescuer’s lives in peril. Even in the Town of Amherst, we maintain Search and Rescue teams to help hikers on the Holyoke Range who are injured, lost, or need assistance.”

The ARHS team’s proposal has two parts. First is the development of a fully autonomous drone that would utilize image recognition and infrared sensors to scan areas with low visibility to support the efforts of search and rescue teams in locating stranded hikers. The students are also hoping to equip the drone with a microphone and speaker to establish two-way communication about health conditions, location, and extenuating circumstances. The second project is to develop a device to monitor vital health signs of the search and rescue teams themselves, including temperature, blood oxygen levels, and heart rate and to connect the monitors to the advanced mapping tool used in search and rescue operations called SAR-TOPO.

The InvenTeam will work with search and rescue experts, including Amherst Fire Chief Tim Nelson, and Markian Stec, a search and rescue operator with Ventura County Sheriff Search and Rescue Mountain Team 1, who will guide the students in the development of their invention. 

Over the next eight months, the ARHS InvenTeam will build a working prototype to enhance the efficiency of search and rescue operations that will be showcased locally at a technical review in February. The final prototype will be showcased at EurekaFest®, an invention celebration taking place June 10–12, 2024, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

“The InvenTeams are focusing on solving problems that impact their local communities,” said Leigh Estabrooks, Lemelson-MIT’s Invention Education Officer. “Teams are focusing their technological solutions — their inventions — on inequities in health and wellbeing, environmental issues, and safety concerns. These high school students are not just problem-solvers of tomorrow, they are problem solvers today helping to make our world more equitable, healthier, and safer.” 

Celebrating 20 Years of the High School InvenTeams Grant Initiative
The InvenTeams initiative, now in its 20th year, has enabled 17 teams of high school students to earn U.S. patents for their projects. Intellectual property education is combined with our invention education offerings as part of the Lemelson-MIT Program’s deliberate efforts to remedy historic inequities among those who develop inventions, helping them to protect their intellectual property and commercialize their creations. LMIT’s ongoing efforts empower students from all backgrounds, equipping them with invaluable problem-solving skills that will serve them well throughout their academic journeys, professional pursuits, and personal lives. Our work with 3,883 students across 296 different teams nationwide these past 20 years includes: 

  • Partnering with intellectual property law firms to provide pro bono legal support. 
  • Collaborating with industry-leading companies that provide technical guidance and mentoring. 
  • Providing professional development for teachers on invention education. 
  • Assisting teams with identifying resources within their communities’ innovation ecosystems to support ongoing invention efforts. 
  • Publishing case studies and research to inform the work of invention educators and policy makers and build support for engaging students in efforts to invent solutions to real-world problems. 

About The Lemelson-MIT Program  
The Lemelson-MIT Program (LMIT) is a national leader in efforts to prepare the next generation of inventors and entrepreneurs. Our work focuses on the expansion of opportunities for people to learn ways inventors find and solve problems that matter to improve lives. Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion aims to remedy historic inequities among those who develop inventions, protect their intellectual property and commercialize their creations. 

Jerome H. Lemelson, one of U.S. history’s most prolific inventors, and his wife Dorothy founded the Lemelson-MIT Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994. It is funded by The Lemelson Foundation and administered by the School of Engineering at MIT, an institution with a strong ongoing commitment to creating meaningful opportunities for K-14 STEM education. For more information, visit

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3 thoughts on “Amherst Regional High School Students Receive Exclusive Engineering Grant to Improve Search and Rescue Efficiency

  1. Congratulations!! It’s so exhilarating to read wonderful things about our schools and, especially, the achievements of our kids!

  2. What a great group of students doing important work and what an interesting course to bring math and science to life. Congrats to the students and their able teacher.

  3. Nice work on these inventions! Fills me with hope to hear about students doing such important work in STEM.

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