May 20, 2016
Pictured above: Michael Kim, Jack Bugbee and Harry Cain
Noise-X Goes to Washington
A Teacher’s Dream: The Focused Classroom
by Bob Wallace
Even ‘near-silence’ is golden when students – including those with learning disabilities like ADHD – are trying to focus while taking tests in their schools.
That’s the goal young inventor Jack Bugbee and two teammates set out to reach in their first foray into solving problems with inventions at Walton High School in Marietta, GA. This year, the school is part of the state’s InVenture Challenge with Georgia Tech.
Though he had long spent his time and effort on graphic design business he launched at age 12, Jack (and others) were annoyed by sound distractions during test taking. His team – which included Harry and Michael – created a pair of special earbuds and an accompanying app that block out certain frequencies and increase the volume of others to solve the pesky problem.
It’s essentially a noise-cancelling, voice-amplifying system. It pumps up what you need to hear and blocks out the rest!
The team’s invention won both the school invention competition and the InVenture Challenge. The next stop is the inaugural National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo (NICEE) at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) headquarters in Alexandria, VA.
In the Beginning
“I’d be sitting in class taking a test and someone would be loudly tapping their pencil on their desktop which was distracting,” Bugbee recalls. “I wanted to help people, especially those with learning challenges, so we set out to create a product that blocked out this type of noise while allowing students to hear others – like the voice of the teacher.”
Though the high school sophomore admits he wasn’t big on inventing, Bugbee stepped up this year with friends Harry and Michael to create the NoiseX system, in part because this was the first year his school partnered with Georgia Tech’s competitive InVenture Challenge.
At the core of the multi-part invention is audio editing tech that enables the user the block out a range of frequencies for the annoying sounds without blocking everything. The app Jack is building enables the earbud wearer to amplify a volume to better hear important sounds, or silence those that serve only to distract.
The trio is still hard at work advancing NoiseX beyond the prototype stage, according to Bugbee. The next step is to reduce the size of the invention. Eventually, the focus will turn to securing funding to move the innovation forward toward manufacturing.
Advice to Young Innovators
Bugbee credits his team’s success with NoiseX to a strong presentation powered by extensive research and suggests budding inventors follow his advice of focusing on knowing your proposed invention and its applicability.
“I can honestly advise you do as much research as is possible on your invention and all its possible uses,” Bugbee says. “This can help you in developing the creation and knowing it inside and out. This research made our presentation much stronger and helped us win the InVenture Challenge.”
Having done seemingly endless research, Jack and team were able to more easily handle all questions from judges and others, which supplemented a comprehensive presentation.
The Road Ahead
Part entrepreneur and part inventor, Bugbee plans to attend college after completing high school. As far as a course of study, the STEM program participant hasn’t yet made up his mind. That’s hardly surprising as he’s working hard to grow his graphic design business for small business and startups while continuing to advance NoiseX with teammates Harry and Michael.
NICEE 2016 was made possible by the generous contributions of United Technologies, Corp., Stanley Black & Decker, Brocade Communications Systems, and The Lemelson Foundation.