East Troy students receive patent for their invention that monitors pet health

The St. Peters School Brickbusters team in 2017.

Last updated on June 6th, 2022 at 03:40 pm

A group of students originally from East Troy has received a patent for a project they first started working on five years ago. The St. Peters Brickbusters originally competed at the FIRST LEGO League world competition in the spring of 2017, showcasing their invention – the “Friendchip.”

The group of eight students, then middle school students at St. Peter’s School in East Troy, was given the challenge of identifying a human/animal interaction that could be improved upon. Out of those eight team members, seven were young women in STEM. The group has since moved on from the middle school competition circuit and its respective members attend East Troy High School, Mukwonago High School, Boylan Catholic High School in Rockford (Illinois), and Creighton University in Nebraska.

“We chose to focus on dogs and researched and reached out to a bunch of professionals. We came up with the Friendchip,” said Mary Schrieber, who was a member of the middle school team. If you want to learn more on how to properly take care of your dog, read this post about the best CBD treats for dogs.

The idea behind the chip is based off the fact that animals can’t tell their owners when they are sick or injured. The Friendchip monitors key vital signs including heart rate, blood pressure, movement and more. It took the Brickbusters four months of research to tailor their idea.

“We thought a microchip with sensors in it could help relay that information to the owners and make that process a little bit faster,” said Mary Schrieber.

After showing their invention at the FIRST LEGO world competition, the Brickbusters had an inkling that they could be on to something. The team placed in the top three out of 32,000 teams that competed.

“We kind of knew that this was a really viable and creative project that we wanted to continue on with,” said Mary Schrieber.

That’s when the idea of a patent first came up. One of the Brickbusters’ parents had a contact at Foley & Lardner, which is how the firm became involved.

Despite their time as a FIRST LEGO team coming to an end once the students entered high school, they continued seeking their patent. FIRST LEGO is strictly a middle school-level competition.

The Foley pro bono team assisted the students throughout the patenting process, aiding in overall patent strategy, preparing and submitting the application, and empowering the students to make decisions along the way.

“We signed with them in October of 2017 and we finally got the patent officially in January of this year,” said Lucy Schrieber, another past member of the Brickbusters.

The Foley team was led by partner Nicholas Zepnick, who said the team was glad to help the Brickbusters secure their patent to promote the importance of being an inventor.

“It is a special honor and a recognition that this team created technology that no one else had thought of,” Zepnick said. “We are excited by the big things to come for these students and are humbled to have been able to help them achieve their vision.”

As the former Brickbusters team heads to college, they want to use their experience to continue networking and promoting women in STEM. They also hope to continue developing the Friendchip, eventually producing and marketing it.

“As for the FIRST organization in general, we were talking about where we would be if we didn’t do this for years of our lives,” said past Brickbusters member Sarah Scanlan. “It was probably one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives. It promoted entrepreneurship and teamwork and professionalism. I think it’s really shaped us into the young people we’ve become today.”

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Ashley covers startups, technology and manufacturing for BizTimes. She was previously the managing editor of the News Graphic and Washington County Daily News. In past reporting roles, covering education at The Waukesha Freeman, she received several WNA awards. She is a UWM graduate. In her free time, Ashley enjoys watching independent films, tackling a new recipe in the kitchen and reading a good book.

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