Cancer battle inspires young inventor

Kylie Simonds, 11, of Naugatuck, holds a rendering of her invention, the IPack, an IV backpack for children. She came up with the idea when going through cancer treatments at the age of 8. –RA ARCHIVE

Kylie Simonds, 11, of Naugatuck, holds a rendering of her invention, the IPack, an IV backpack for children. She came up with the idea when going through cancer treatments at the age of 8. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — When Kylie Simonds was fighting cancer, one of the most annoying obstacles she remembers was having to sit still or walk gingerly while she received treatment intravenously.

The Cross Street Intermediate School fifth-grader, who was 8 and 9 when she received cancer treatment, said she often sat around for a full day at her doctor’s office, basically tied to a pole.

“Honestly, I just wanted to play and run around but it wasn’t possible with the IV poles,” she said.

So Simonds, now 11, knew exactly what she wanted to do for her fifth-grade invention convention project. With some design help from her father, Mike, she created a backpack that not only holds books, but it also holds an IV bag and a pump. Children who need to get nourishment and/or medicine intravenously can now walk through the hallways just like all of the other children, thanks to Simonds’ invention.

The “IPack, an IV backpack for children,” has not only impressed students and teachers in the Naugatuck school district, it has caught on at the state level, too. Simonds was one of 21 students from the Cross Street and Hillside schools in Naugatuck who received recognition for their inventions at the Connecticut Invention Convention this month at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.

The invention convention, in its 31st year, is open to K-8 students statewide and is designed to develop, encourage and enhance critical thinking skills through intervention, innovation and entrepreneurship.

More than 130 schools in the state participate every year, with more than 10,000 students creating inventions annually. The award winners from each district are chosen to go to UConn every year for the state convention.

Not only did Simonds receive recognition at UConn, she received top honors, winning the only patent given out. She also took three prestigious awards: the Boehringer-Ingelheim Life Science Award; the McCormick, Paulding & Huber Award; and the Promising Young Women Inventor Award.

“I was so excited,” she said, giving a wide smile.

Cross Street Principal Melissa Cooney said she was pleased with all of the students who participated. She also called Simonds a wonderful student and an all-around great child.

At first, Simonds was on a mission to impress her teachers. She’s done that. Now, she’s on a mission to help other children.

She is cancer free after beating rhabdomyosarcoma, or RMS, a relatively rare form of cancer in connective tissues. But she knows others are still struggling and need IVs.

She hopes to one day make a prototype of the backpack and sell it in stores.

“We can make something for kids that they can actually move around with,” she said. “That would be great.”

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