Kentucky middle schoolers design tool to fight opioid crisis 


Three young students, aged 11-14, designed and 3-D printed a device to allow police officers to safely pick up littered opioid needles without getting stabbed. The kids from Ashland, Kentucky won a top award in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow national contest for their unique invention.

Caleb Cambell, Isaac Cambell and Aubree Hay wanted to create a solution to the growing opioid epidemic in their hometown 120 miles from Lexington, KY. According to Aubree Hay, “there’s a problem with people leaving around syringes,” and many police officers have been getting hurt trying to collect them. After hearing a talk from the middle school’s resource officer, the students decided to act. 

In October 2017, the three kids began the design, and by February, they had constructed a prototype, which they presented to local law officials. The device is a 3-D printed hollow rectangular box with plastic teeth in the open face. The plastic teeth allow the officers to grip the needle without touching it.  

The community response was so great that police officers asked the kids to design a second model, a cylinder, to fit into evidence beakers, which they successfully did. 

The original rectangular design was entered into the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest, and the invention was one of the top three entries. The students won $150,000 in technology for Ashland Middle School. The three students also won the Community Choice award, bringing in an additional $20,000 in school resources. “Our hard work paid off,” Hay said. 

As an additional reward, the three students will be going to Washington, D.C.  to meet with Kentucky congressmen Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, and Thomas Massie.