The Lemelson-MIT Program

Celebrating Invention, Inspiring Youth

The Lemelson-MIT Program celebrates outstanding inventors and inspires young people to pursue creative lives and careers through invention. In accomplishing this goal, Lemelson-MIT provides grants to teams of student inventors across the country. Lemelson-MIT needed a portal for managing project teams, budgets, and documentation. We developed an intuitive teaming application to help them manage the efforts of hundreds of school programs and student inventors.

Complex Engineering Challenges

One of the main challenges of this project was that we had to build the teaming application as an extension of an existing Drupal website built by another agency. This required tight coordination, robust development workflows, and solid test plans. Interestingly, it also resulted in a migration to the Pantheon hosting platform and other DevOps enhancements that led to a 50% improvement in the web application’s overall speed.

Intuitive Interface Design

As those who have worked with Drupal are acutely aware, it provides powerful tools out-of-the-box for building web applications and portals. That said, its default user interfaces can be clunky and hard for end users to learn. Consequently, we invested heavily into developing a custom interface design for the project. The result was a highly-intuitive user experience that engages students using the tool.

Open Source Contributions

Because of the large volume of schools and classrooms applying for Lemelson-MIT invention grants, the program leverages SlideRoom for managing grant applications. As part of this project, we developed an open source Drupal module and PHP wrapper for pulling SlideRoom constituent and team data into Drupal.

Results

Since the launch, the portal has managed $150,000 in grants made to student inventors, 600 student applicants to the Lemelson-MIT program, and has 15 active teams leveraging the portal.

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