It was just over a month ago that GBS sophomore Kate Stack stood in shock waiting to meet Matt Damon. She was one of five national finalists that traveled to Los Angeles for Marvel Studios’ Thor: Ragnarok Superpower of STEM Challenge
“I nearly died of excitement,” Kate said, with Cate Blanchett and Chris Hemsworth greeting her next.
In addition to attending the red carpet premiere of “Thor: Ragnarok,” Kate was invited to present her STEM project, the “Epi-Spot,” to a panel of experts from companies including Walt Disney Studios, Dolby Laboratories and Synchrony Bank.
Kate describes the Epi-Spot as a “furry friend that is designed to teach children and adults how to use their epinephrine injector.” It’s a teddy bear that’s equipped with a microcomputer, programming and other electrical components. It can be used as an EpiPen training tool for people with food allergies. Kate spent about two years completing the project.
“When I was three years old, my mom was teaching me how to use my EpiPen when she accidentally injected herself with the real device – not the training tool,” Kate said. “This left me terrified of needles.”
Kate knew this fear could prevent someone with with food allergies from getting important, life-saving training. That’s when she created the Epi-Spot to solve what she saw as a global problem.
“The process started when I was in a Maker Club at Springman Middle School,” Kate said. “I learned how to code and use a mini computer. From there, I was able to explore mini computers controlled by code and learn the millions of things you can do. I wanted to solve a greater problem; that’s when I remembered all my experiences with food allergies.”
Kate explained that an allergic reaction can happen at virtually any time, which is why it is important for people to be trained.
When Kate isn’t building or coding, she’s advocating for food allergy awareness locally and helping out with Glenview’s Got STEAM – a science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics program for girls in grades 5-8.
Kate’s teacher, Mike Sinde, describes Kate as a “natural maker.”
“She loves to problem solve and is very passionate about helping others,” Sinde said.
Kate’s mother, Karen Stack, said she believes high school STEM classes have really helped her daughter grow.
“What strikes me most are the thoughtful and intelligent questions that Kate poses,” Karen Stack said. “It’s obvious that her engineering design thinking is coming into play, and it’s because of her GBS classes.”
Looking toward the future, Kate said she would like to learn more about the medical field while continuing to build new things.
“My willingness to try keeps me going,” Kate said. “There were a lot of times that I failed [while building the Epi-Spot], and it was really hard at first… But I kept going and that was really important because now I have this awesome, finished product.”
View Epi-Spot video demonstration