Local attorneys invest in the future of Detroit Public Schools' student inventors


Detroit Public Schools students talked about participating in the Inventors Club at the Invention Convention organized by The Henry Ford in 2022.

Photo courtesy of Howard & Howard 

For a third straight year, Howard & Howard Attorneys PLLC is partnering with Detroit Public Schools to support student inventors by volunteering their time and donating resources to the Inventors Club, an afterschool program developed in 2021 by attorney Dan Chojnowski of Howard & Howard. Held at the Detroit Public Schools Community District’s (DPSCD) Brewer Academy, the Inventors Club provides fifth through eighth grade students the opportunity to experience the different stages of creating an invention and seeking financial investment to launch their product. 

The nine-month program runs from September to May, is based on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts, includes identifying a problem, conceptualizing a solution, and building a prototype with supplies that Howard & Howard provides. The experience culminates with students pitching their invention to a group of judges in the annual Invention Convention organized by The Henry Ford. Previous student inventions have included a color-changing coat, a custom dog kennel that allowed for efficiently clipping a dog’s nails, and a cell phone case modified to integrate solar panels.

Seven members from Howard & Howard’s intellectual property team, all of whom have STEM backgrounds, volunteer with the Inventors Club on a weekly basis. The attorneys lead the program with two DPSCD teachers to discuss all aspects of inventing, share inventor “war stories,” and serve as engineering consultants to assist students with identifying and overcoming design challenges during prototyping. The curriculum includes weekly lessons that guide students through the invention and design process, and ultimately covers topics that include market research, business planning, and public speaking. 

“The opportunity to mentor Brewer Academy students in the Inventors Club has been such a rewarding process for our entire team,” said Chojnowski, chairman of Howard & Howard’s IP team. “It’s incredible to see how the kids advance throughout the year, embrace the invention process, and develop a true sense of ownership over the project. It’s fun to watch them grapple with how to make their ideas a reality and watch them navigate the downstream challenges associated with bringing an abstract idea to life.”  

“The Inventors Club provides a unique platform for our students to experience real world STEM applications in a fictional business environment,” said Debra Carr, a special education teacher at Brewer Academy. “The overall complexity and multidiscipline nature of Inventors Club is intended to be challenging, and there is nothing better than watching our students rise to conquer it.”

Over the course of the year, Howard & Howard attorneys volunteer more than 200 hours to run the Inventors Club. To date, they have invested over 450 collective hours in the program and have mentored nearly 100 students since the program’s inception.

Last year, Inventors Club took 22 Brewer Academy students to the Regional Convention of the Invention Convention at Wayne State University; three students advanced to the Invention Convention Michigan, where they competed against students from across Michigan at The Henry Ford Museum. 

This year’s Invention Convention takes place on April 29 at The Henry Ford Museum. 

“Math and engineering knowledge are critically important subjects for intellectual property lawyers as we need to understand the products our clients have created to help them secure patents for their work,” Chojnowski said. “Our sincere hope is that by working with the students at Brewer Academy, they see how valuable and interesting applying STEM subjects can be in helping them become anything they want to be, from an engineer to a doctor…and yes, even a lawyer.” 

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