Caroline Rausch graduated from Crystal Lake South High School on Saturday, and she already has applied for two patents. She began working on the first one in eighth grade with six other girls who were on a robotics team called Fruit Salad. The theme of the contest was natural disasters, and Fruit Salad decided to research floods. The team developed a kit so people trapped in their car could escape and survive by staying on the roof.
Fruit Salad applied for a provisional patent first, through a patent lawyer. After that, they had one year to finalize their design. Once that was completed, the team filed the patent to the patent office and waited two years for results. Typically, more revisions are requested, but that didn’t happen.
“We were really happy when we got our patent because we didn’t expect it to be that fast. It seems like a long time that it took us three years, but normally it takes multiple revisions and there’s three years of waiting, so it takes 10 years,” Rausch said.
Rausch began working on her second patent during her junior year with Erin Cook and Rutu Brahmbhatt as part of a capstone course called Engineering Design and Development. All three girls played tennis and decided to create a machine that would sort tennis balls and check the pressure, so that the tennis coaches did not have to do this by hand.
Rausch, Cook and Brahmbhatt applied for a patent at the end of May 2017. Their goal was to submit the revised patent application to the patent office at the end of this school year. Rausch has been making revisions with the help of her patent lawyer, and she said it will be sent to the patent office shortly.
As for Fruit Salad, the group hasn’t decided what to do with the kit. They have thought about selling it to AAA and having the company market it. As for the tennis ball problem, Rausch continues to make revisions so the machine doesn’t jam, and so it accurately measures the pressure of the tennis balls.
Rausch plans to attend Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering this fall, where she will be studying mechanical engineering and hopes to have a concentration in entrepreneurship.
“I don’t really like working at a desk like most engineers, I’d rather do the whole engineering process,” she said. “I design it, I build it, I test it, so I’d like to have a company that can let me be involved in all of that.”