Ledyard Middle School student a repeat finalist in National Invention Convention

Sean Harren, 11, a sixth-grader at the Juliet W. Long School in Gales Ferry, poses in front of his Turbo Thaw invention, which has made him a finalist in the National Invention Convention for the second year in a row. (Charles T. Clark/The Day)
Sean Harren, 11, a sixth-grader at the Juliet W. Long School in Gales Ferry, poses in front of his Turbo Thaw invention, which has made him a finalist in the National Invention Convention for the second year in a row. (Charles T. Clark/The Day)

Ledyard — Tired of having to wait a whole day for your meat to thaw? Well, 11-year-old Sean Harren has just the solution for you.

Harren, a sixth-grade student at the Juliet W. Long School in Gales Ferry, has created the Turbo Thaw, a device that provides a safe, efficient way to defrost meat in one hour or less. And now, that ingenuity is taking him all the way to the final stage of a national competition.

Later this week, Harren will head to Dearborn, Mich., alongside his parents, Paul and Jennifer Harren of Gales Ferry, for the 2018 National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo at The Henry Ford Museum. The event, which runs May 31 to June 2, celebrates K-12 inventors and serves as the U.S. national finals competition of local, regional, state and sectional invention competitions across the country.

“I like engineering; I like trying to figure out the best way to design it and build it,” said Harren, adding that the most challenging part of creating his Turbo Thaw was figuring out the right materials to use.

It will be a return trip for Harren, who credits his parents and the teacher in his Young Engineer’s program for inspiring his interest in the sciences. Last year, Harren also made it to the finals stage of the competition, during what was his — and Juliet Long’s — first year participating in the Invention Convention program.

But while Harren’s invention last year focused on taking colored water out of paintbrushes, this year’s invention tackled something entirely different.

Harren said he spent a lot of time brainstorming various ideas including the one he ultimately settled on, which was inspired by a time when his mom forgot to take out chicken from the freezer for dinner one night. He decided to focus on a defrosting project because he couldn’t find many similar projects that already had been done.

So, in February he began working on his project. He had a couple of different designs, and had to figure out which materials would work best for the heat transfer — an aspect he said his dad helped him with. But ultimately by March he had finished his invention, which he dubbed the Turbo Thaw, a device that could defrost one pound of steak in one hour and 1.8 pounds of chicken in 45 minutes.

The Turbo Thaw performs this rapid defrosting by using heating coils to warm a pair of top and bottom aluminum plates, all while drawing the cold away from the meat that rests between the plates. The plates also possess a nonstick coating to prevent meat from sticking, and the bottom plate lip is curved to contain any liquid runoff.

Harren, who also is involved in Boy Scouts, lacrosse, soccer and sailing, said that getting back to nationals was a goal of his and he's really excited for a chance to explore the Henry Ford Museum.  

"He's an exceptional student and a marvelous person in general. ... he does the right thing just because," said Anne Hogsten, principal of the Juliet W. Long School, who praised Harren as a kind, humble and compassionate student role model who always is eager to reach out and help other kids feel included.

"Doing the right thing and doing the best you can is really what will get you far in life, and even if he hadn't gone to nationals, he had done his best and would be proud of that," she added.

c.clark@theday.com

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