Dalton Public Schools News

Westwood Student Wins Big in International Competition
Westwood Student Wins Big in International Competition
"She's the poster child for design thinking."
Callie and her group presenting at Pitch DIA

A little over two years ago, Dalton's own Tripp Phillips braved the investment waters of ABC's television show, Shark Tank, with his invention of LeGlue. After charming the "sharks" and securing an investment for his innovative product with businessman Kevin O'Leary, Phillips has gone on to grow his invention to a product that sells internationally.

Martha Thomason, gifted teacher at Westwood, was there to see Phillips work and innovate his product while still a student at the elementary school into the global phenomenon it has become today. After Phillips set the bar high for students to follow and strive for, Thomason and Westwood have been doing a great deal of design-thinking for the past decade.

Another imaginative Westwood student has been paving her own path over the past few years. Callie Pendley, now a sixth grade student at Dalton Middle School, was awarded a first-place finish for her age group in the International Torrance Legacy Creativity Award. Her invention that won the award was a Neon Book Light.

This award challenges young investors to solve problems using the scientific method. Students from ages 8 to 18 years old create original products ranging from enjoyable activities (Arts and Leisure) to playful fun (Toys and Games) to helpful Solutions (Science and Engineering). Applicants for this award begin with a need, develop their concept and design a prototype with detailed instructions and three-dimensional graphic.

Due to the great number of applicants coming in from across the world in a number of different countries and continents, the award that Pendley submitted last fall took some time to hear back on the winner. This past May, in the middle of the pandemic, Pendley found out the news of her victory from her mother.

"My mom actually told me I won the Torrance Legacy Award. I had no idea," said Pendley.

Pendley had been thinking about the idea of creating a Neon Book Light for several years now. After entering it into different design competitions and making adjustments to it along the way, she now has her invention where she wants it to be.

While coming up with the idea on her own in the third grade, Pendley began to work with a team as the years progressed while they pitched their ideas to several local competitions. Pendley knew she had something special with her Neon Book Light as her team began winning these competitions.

"Her willingness to stick with an idea, bring people in to help, and to listen to others sets Callie apart," said Thomason.

While doing ample research into the scope of her idea, Pendley surprisingly found that there was not a book light on the market that was lightweight and easily usable. She wanted to create something that was viable for others to use on a daily basis.

"I always love thinking of different creative things and different inventions to help people," said Pendley.

The Neon Book Light is an LED light that is conveniently attached to a book cover. This book cover suppresses or stretches to fit almost any book as the light easily hangs over the top of the book to provide light when reading late at night or in a dark environment.

"I know when most people use a book light it can be very bulky and can be complicated to use. With the Neon Book Light invention, it is lightweight and will not fall off easily as it is attached to the book cover," said Pendley.

For the other local design and innovation competitions Pendley had previously won, there have been award ceremonies and board celebrations honoring her success. However, because she did not find out about her first-place finish in the International Torrance Legacy Creativity Awards until May following the start of the pandemic, there were no big celebrations for this respectable award as in other competitions past.

"I would like to commend Callie for her persistence," said Dr. Lisa Hackney, director of school support in our district. "She starts on something and will run into bumps and gets pushed back a couple of steps, but she pushes through every time. It has been a wonderful journey to watch."

The future looks bright for the creative mind of Pendley. One company became interested in working with her in a mentorship, but that opportunity fell apart when the pandemic hit. Mrs. Julia Cagle, former entrepreneurship and innovation teacher at Westwood and current media specialist at Dalton Middle, is trying to set Pendley up with a professional mentorship.

"She's the poster child for design thinking," proudly stated Thomason.