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OTTUMWA — An Ottumwa student who made a splash at the state’s Invention Convention wowed judges at the national level as well.

Charles Smith named the “Benge Beacon” after Ottumwa Assistant Fire Chief Cory Benge. In April his device took top honors at the state convention, earning him a place at the nationals in Dearborn, Mich.

Charles said he created the device after Benge spoke at his school.

“Sometimes when there’s a residential fire, the firefighters don’t know how to get back out of the house,” Charles said in April.

The beacon has a light that can be set to flash. A hook and magnet allow it to be attached to wherever firefighters enter a building, whether it’s a doorway or a window. If firefighters need to evacuate quickly, the beacon shows them where the exit is. Firefighters can also clip the beacon to their coat or equipment.

While the event is called the nationals, Charles’ win meant coming out on top against a field of international entries. The second-place winner in the kindergarten division was from Singapore. The winner in first grade was from China.

The Invention Convention is designed to give students “hands-on, real-world” learning opportunities.

When Charles visited the fire station in April, Benge said the beacon had real potential. With a couple tweaks, it could be a very viable tool. It looks like the judges agreed.

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