By JACKIE NAPPO

The Journal Inquirer

ELLINGTON, Conn. (AP) — Since he was a toddler, Jason DiRenza has loved to tinker with tools and toys, a hobby that propelled him to the national stage with an invention designed to give people more time to escape houses that are filling with deadly carbon monoxide gas.

Jason, who is 10 years old and a fifth grader at Center School, made it all the way to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan for the Invention Convention Nationals in May with his carbon monoxide fan alarm.

He didn’t win a national award, but he did earn two awards at the state invention convention that month at the University of Connecticut.

The Connecticut Safety Society honored him for the inclusion of safety, health, and environmental principles and ideologies into his invention, and he also received an award from the judges for the top invention in his judging circle.

Jason said he got the idea for his invention over lunch one day with his family when a discussion came up about how, in a mishap that happened years ago, their home had filled with carbon monoxide and the fire department had to come and turn on a large fan to air it out.

Jason got to thinking, “why doesn’t the house just already activate a fan instead?”

Thus began his work to create a model home, in which he installed a smoke detector — he used that instead of a more expensive carbon monoxide detector to cut costs — a fan, batteries, and a series of wires connecting them all.

When the detector goes off, a pulse is sent to the fan, turning it on and blowing carbon monoxide out of the house, allowing those inside more time to escape. His invention is able to funnel the carbon monoxide out of the home because it’s installed near an air duct.

Construction of his project and coming up with its presentation began in the Center School invention club, which is led by second-grade teacher Pam Whiting.

Jason and his mother, Karolee DiRenza, both credit Whiting with being instrumental in helping Jason create an award-winning project.

Jason started by creating the poster board, which outlines his invention and how it works. Then one evening he put the model house together with all the pieces of his invention and the wires.

Karolee said Jason has always had an interest in taking things apart and putting them back together again.

“I’ve taken apart a blow dryer and a lot of other things,” Jason said, explaining that he’s also taken apart a computer printer but “that got messy.”

Jason’s mother said she was shocked when they got the email saying his invention was selected to compete at the national level.

“We couldn’t believe it,” she said, adding that they had only one week’s worth of time to send all of their materials in.

Jason and his father, Christopher DiRenza, took a road trip together to the competition in Michigan in May.

Karolee said Jason gets his love for working with his hands from his father, who is a district manager for Cornwell Quality Tools — which makes tools for aviation and automotive industries.

Jason’s father encourages him by letting him help with projects around the house.

Jason is helping his father fix a trailer parked outside their home.

“The lights were not working, so we basically took off all of the lights and rewired the whole thing,” Jason said.

They’re also building a photo booth in their garage.

Karolee said her husband has allowed Jason to help him with these projects since he was a toddler.

Of course, Jason also enjoys the same things as other students his age. He’s involved in Boy Scouts, and last year he participated in the Clay Club and Lego Club at his school.

At the time of this interview, he had just completed his first day of fifth grade. He wasn’t sure yet what clubs he would start this coming school year, but knew he was interested in taking up percussion in the school’s band.

The common thread throughout all of his interests remains the same, though: working with his hands.

Jason said he hopes to enter the invention convention again in the coming years.

“I’m constantly thinking of other things to invent,” he said.

He hopes to be some type of engineer when he grows up.

Information from: Journal Inquirer, http://www.journalinquirer.com

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