Most young students would be happy just to receive a good grade for a project.
Albert Westpfal isn’t like most kids.
Westpfal, a fourth grade student at , created what he calls a yarn pen for his TREPS Workshop project. TREPS is an annual event held at the elementary schools designed to teach students about entrepreneurship. Students have to create a new product, or modify an existing one, and sell it at a marketplace.
Westpfal designed the product to teach visually impaired children how to recognize and better identify shapes, letters, and words.
Westpfal got the idea from Make magazine. A small spool of yarn made from a paper clip and plastic cup is attached to the top of a hollowed out pen. Children use the yarn to “write” whatever they want on a homemade, sticky notepad.
Westpfal later created dozens of the devices and donated them to the Concordia Learning Center at St. Joseph’s School for the Blind in Jersey City. Marketplace attendees could also purchase a pen to be donated to the hospital.
“I’m glad that I could make something that helps other people,” Westpfal said.
Westpfal’s parents said that he is a very independent young man.
“He really enjoys creating things and taking things apart,” Westpfal’s mother Margaret said. “He’s always had a great imagination. This was a really good experience for him.”
The fact that Westpfal took an idea, made it his own, and then used it to help others is what makes Margaret so proud.
“He realized that it was a win-win situation,” Margaret said. “Whether he made money on it or not, in the end, he was able to help children with something he created. And that’s what matters most.”
Westpfal sold the pens at his school’s marketplace last month for $2. The pens cost him 76 cents to manufacture. He even “hired” his parents to work for him.
Westpfal went to St. Joseph’s recently to demonstrate how the device works. He met with kids and showed them how to use it.
“We’re so happy that Albert created this device,” said Ellen Felicetta, director of development for St. Joseph’s. “It was amazing to see him work with the children. He’s a very smart young man and we were thrilled that he wanted to help others with this project.”
And Westpfal isn’t done. He wants to improve the design and use sturdier materials that won’t break as easy as the paper clips and pens do. He also might patient the device.
“He used it to help others and that’s amazing,” she said. “Most other kids created something with food or took a product and modified it, but this was so labor intensive. But he really wanted to do it.”