Jerry O’Donnell, the sixty-year-old science teacher at Eagles Landing Middle School in West Boca, is a busy man. He does the carpentry for his school’s teaching gardens, organizes a town computer recycling program, and teaches physics to 12 and 14-year-olds with basketball analogies.
And apparently he has time and mind to spare after all of that, because he’s also an inventor. During a 2014 teachers’ summit at MIT, O’Donnell’s attention was caught by a seminar about how to make medical equipment accessible around the world. The panelist told a story about a father with no electricity using a tire pump to run a nebulizer, a tool to aerosolize medications for inhalation, for his son. O’Donnell immediately had the thought that an inflated tire would work better than the tire pump, and would be more available as well.
While he was drafting up the design, he let his students name the new gadget. They chose “Nebutyre” and it was under that name that he entered it into Infosys Foundation’s contest. Infosys, a nonprofit organization that supports computer science education, awarded O’Donell and his device their grand prize, $10,000 to make a prototype. He has a provisional patent now, and is looking into the clinical safety studies he’ll need to have done to win FDA approval so he can sell Nebutyres as a medical device. Once all the hoops have been jumped through, he hopes to find a way to donate thousands to groups like Doctors Without Borders.
Most of that kind of testing will be out of his hands, but O’Donnell won’t be bored. He’s already working on his next invention, a rear-radar detector to help motorcycles and bicycles avoid collisions. And his students are along for every step of the process.