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LISTEN: Phoebe Judge Interviews 14 Year-Old Chapel Hill Inventor, Two Patents

Michelle Lewis

In the last few years, Chase Lewis has patented two life-saving inventions, been a finalist in five national science competitions, and earned the Presidential Volunteer Service Silver Award. Oh, and he’s only 14 years old.

Lewis, who is homeschooled, has long been interested in science and inventions.

“My grandfather was an aeronautical physicist who worked on the Apollo program,” Lewis said. “I’ve gotten to spend some time with him, and we talk about science and inventions all the time.”

Credit Michelle Lewis
Chase Lewis demonstrating his Rescue Travois invention.

Just last year, Lewis came in first in the ePals/Smithsonian Invent It Challenge and won a patent application for his entry, the Rescue Travois. The Rescue Travois is a cheap device that Lewis created in order to help individuals carry sick or injured people long distances easily. Lewis came up with the idea after reading about the famine in Somalia and how parents weren’t able to carry their sick children to hospitals and refugee camps.

This year, he won again for his age group, and patented a football shaped canister that would allow first-responders to throw smoke masks up to people stuck in building fires.

“I was thinking I would do something with fire retardants, but then I thought about the unfortunate fact that most people die from smoke inhalation before the fire fighters can even get to them,” Lewis said.

Credit Michelle Lewis
Chase Lewis and the canister he invented to help get smoke masks to people trapped in building fires.

Then, with the help of his 3-D printer, which he bought with competition prize money, Lewis thought up and printed his football canister. The canister has even caught the attention of Xcaper Industries, a company that manufactures smoke masks.  

Though Lewis has a special passion for science and inventing, he attributes a lot of his success to the flexibility he has in being homeschooled.

“For all this time I’ve been home-schooled, I’ve had the ability to work on anything and everything I want to as long as it doesn’t kill me or somebody else,” Lewis said. “I’ve been able to grow up in a hands-on environment where I can tinker, and I’ve learned that the real-world has a lot of character that you won’t be able to find in an online world.”

Next up for Lewis? No big deal, he's just been working on ways to improve current military body armor. Tony Stark, watch out, you may just be getting some real-life competition. 

Nancy Wang is WUNC's very first Digital Intern. Nancy will graduate in May 2014 from UNC's School of Medicine. Nancy is headed to Stanford to do her residency in June. She will specialize in urology. Nancy is a skilled writer and is passionate about medical/science journalism. She contributes to The Charlotte Observer and North Carolina Health News among other outlets.
Phoebe Judge is an award-winning journalist whose work has been featured on a numerous national radio programs. She regularly conducts interviews and anchors WUNC's broadcast of Here & Now. Previously, Phoebe served as producer, reporter and guest host for the nationally distributed public radio program The Story. Earlier in her career, Phoebe reported from the gulf coast of Mississippi. She covered the BP oil spill and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for Mississippi Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio. Phoebe's work has won multiple Edward R. Murrow and Associated Press awards. Phoebe was born and raised in Chicago and is graduate of Bennington College and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.
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