MURFREESBORO -- Thomas Jones is quite the budding entrepreneur. At 17, the Stratford STEM Magnet High School junior already has a contract with Microsoft for a game he created called Blanco: The Color of Adventure.
At the sixth annual Middle Tennessee STEM Expo, held Wednesday (April 11) at MTSU's Student Union Ballroom, Johnson showed off his "Conceptual Forensic Retrieval System," an educational tool for children, he said.
Johnson was among more than 600 students from across the Midstate -- including Clarksville, Brentwood, Franklin, Nashville and other cities -- taking part in the expo that highlights science, technology, engineering, math, research and more. The expo showcases the fifth- through 12th-graders' recent STEM projects.
Johnson's latest gizmo "teaches basic concepts" in forensics at a crime scene, he said. "It's a 'Clue' kind of thing," referencing the popular crime-solving board game. On a monitor, he points out a sensor in the ceiling. Using a controller, he searches for blood. "It shows where it was found. It can collect DNA and tell you more about it."
Were he to make a change to it, Johnson would adapt it for an older group.
Braden Cole and Declan Deering, both 11 and fifth-graders at Madison Creek Elementary School in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, devised a "Survivor Helmet" for people to use if they were to get lost in the woods.
The helmet featured a phone to use as GPS, binoculars, plastic shovel and portable charger.
Stewarts Creek Middle School eighth-graders Abby Irwin, Olivia Marlow, Kristiana Heinz and Keaton Pyne spent six weeks collaborating on their "React-A-Button' project.
All four appeared to ace questions presented by Joshua Phillips, an MTSU computer science assistant professor and one of many judges volunteering their time for the event.
"We hope our product will cut down on reaction time and potentially save lives," Marlow said of the project, which stemmed from the recent shootings at schools across the country.
Trying as best as he could, Kevin Salazar, 14, of Murfreesboro, a Whitworth-Buchanan Middle School eighth-grader, was pedaling a bicycle, hoping to generate electricity.
"It doesn't have an inverter, so it cannot power the light bulb," said Salazar, who was one of four team members.
"Pet Zoomer," "The Quick Feet Baseball Cleat" and "Energy Drinks vs. Orange Juice" were just a sampling of other project titles.
Ginger Rowell, interim director with MTSU's Tennessee STEM Education Center who oversaw the running of the event, called the projects amazing.
"There were some really impressive engineering projects," said Lei Miao, an engineering technology assistant professor. "This is a great event to promote to students and parents in STEM."
Before the students returned to their schools, awards and medals were presented in Tucker Theatre.
Housed at MTSU, the Middle Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub encourages students to engage in projects involving a process of inquiry in response to a complex question, problem or challenge. These rigorous projects help students learn key academic content and practice skills necessary for success in communication, collaboration and critical thinking.
For more information, call 615-904-8573.
MTSU has more than 240 combined undergraduate and graduate programs.