Hill Country Education Foundation InvenTeam presents ‘The Dalmatian’ at Eurekafest


Jan Masterson

The Boston Fire Department visits the HCEF Inventeam during Eurekafest to view their product, The Dalmatian

Alaina Galasso, Opinions Editor

At first, it didn’t seem like forming a team would be possible. A group of individuals had a groundbreaking idea, inspired by the Steiner fires of 2011, but they couldn’t find a sponsor or an outlet to carry it out. Then, the Hill Country Education Foundation (HCEF) and Jan Masterson came into the picture. A team of 12 individuals, including myself, was formed around June of 2014 to create the HCEF InvenTeam. We ended up creating a device called The Dalmatian, the firefighter’s best friend. The device helps guide the firehouse through door frames and corners to prevent kinking and resulted water-pressure losses. Over the summer, the same team traveled to Eurekafest at MIT to receive an abundant amount of praise for a product we didn’t think would make it that far.

Eurekafest is the goal for any InvenTeam. The teams who meet all the requirements get to travel to MIT to meet the founders of the organization, present their products and meet other notable inventors. Our team left on June 18 and stayed until the 21 on the MIT campus. On Friday we presented The Dalmatian in a lecture room filled with three other Inventeams and other interested sponsors. After finishing all of the presentations, we moved into a showcase with all of the other teams. Other students, parents, teachers and even interested Boston citizens came to observe the working prototypes and learn about the process we used to create them. We were also able to listen to a presentation from the National Collegiate Student Prize Winners. We also got to meet some profound inventors, including the man who helped create the 3D printer, Professor Michael Cima. It was inspiring to meet so many inventors who are making a difference, but it was even more amazing to the see the difference that our team could make.

Our device was, to say the least, widely praised. During the showcase we had all planned on taking shifts of two or three to stay at the booth and answer any questions. However, we had so many people at our booth from the beginning that none of us were able to leave. We were swarmed by students and adults alike who had somehow heard about our product. For myself, it was overwhelming. I have never been a science type of person, but I joined the team because of the support I received from my father and to broaden my interests. During this showcase, I found myself explaining our product to people and answering their many questions without having to stop and think about it. I can’t begin to describe how overjoyed I was when the fire chief of the Boston Fire Department showed up. Our team talked to him and one of his deputies for over an hour before he called in some of the other firefighters to bring a hose to test our product. Previously, we had input from the Austin Fire Department, but it was thrilling to see that other fire departments are equally interested. The next day, we were invited to the fire station to view one of their trainings. We got to witness these heroes, from only 10 feet away, practice rescuing human dummies from a burning, three-story building. Each individual firefighter said that our product could help them, and that alone truly made the past year of creating it completely worth it.

Now, our team is planning on taking our product to market. We already filed a patent so the next natural step is to find a buyer. We are looking into companies who sell products to firefighters and even shows such as Sharktank. Because of all of the feedback we received at Eurkafest, we now have multiple ideas of new inventions that could help firefighters execute their jobs more efficiently. Our team hopes to keep inventing, and The Dalmatian was only the start.