Fall's spark of genius article
Young Inventor Lucca Riccio
Lucca Riccio is a high school sophomore who places a premium on family and community, deftly balancing school and extracurricular activities, such as inventing new technology. His latest invention was inspired by his paternal grandmother, Grandma Ruth.
Grandma Ruth provided Lucca with his best childhood memories—Sunday pasta dinners, ransacking the home as he and his cousins played hide-and-seek, and the annual Christmas meal. His family is close-knit, so when Grandma Ruth was unexpectedly given 48 hours to live, it was devastating. (She had been a recent breast cancer survivor, set to receive her final treatment when an error occurred). As relatives assembled in the hospital room, Grandma Ruth had difficulty expressing her final messages to them; similarly, the family had difficulty hearing and understanding those messages. Ruth had so much to say, from making funeral arrangements to voicing wishes and words of love. The oxygen mask over her mouth was stealing the final moments of communication away from the family.
“Why couldn’t they put a microphone in the mask?” Lucca thought to himself on the ride home after his grandmother passed. With an initial brainstorm born out of frustration and regret, Lucca began to work on a prototype for his idea, which later became the "Message Mask." While he is proud of his invention, he is sorry that the technology was not able to help Grandma Ruth. “My Bluetooth-enabled noise canceling microphone would have picked up her voice and relayed it to the smartphone as well as to a local speaker, so everyone could hear.”
Lucca has been overwhelmed by positive responses to the Message Mask. Neighbors in Grandma Ruth’s New England community have shown tremendous support. “People stop me in public and congratulate me.” He also receives positive feedback from social media outlets, which helped Lucca get support at “pitch” competitions. He uses social media to garner votes and earn money to help defray legal fees and engineering costs.
Lucca’s Message Mask received the Most Marketable Award at the 2016 National Invention Convention in Alexandria, Virginia. A patent application has also been filed, although it is going through many transitions. At present, Lucca is working on making adjustments to his prototype and negotiating with investors. He has changed the name to the "Tube Talker", as the microphone is now in the tube, which provides more clarity than the original design. Lucca plans to have his product in hospitals within six months to a year.
One of Grandma Ruth’s final wishes was for the family to visit her homeland of Ireland. In the summer of 2016, that wish became one of Lucca’s most cherished memories. Another goal of Lucca’s is passing along the attitude of perseverance to other young entrepreneurs. “Don’t take ‘No’ or ‘It won’t work’ for an answer,” he said. This is the same motivation that Lucca received from his family, and particularly his grandmother. Now he carries on her legacy, enabling compassion through his inventive spirit.