By Karen Brainard
Three Ramona High School graduates are hoping their invention will lead them to be the youngest weapons patent holders in history.
Tylor Ellard, Michael “Max” Hughes, and Hector Herrera have entered their design for a new kind of grenade in the 2012 Collegiate Inventors Competition and have been in touch with the U.S. patent office.
“It’s pretty revolutionary. We had to overcome a lot of obstacles,” Ellard said of their design.
The 19-year-old attends Palomar College and is majoring in mechanical engineering and astrophysics. He and Hughes graduated from Ramona High in 2010 while Herrera is a 2011 graduate.
Ellard said he has always been interested in engineering and has been designing since he was 14 years old.
After learning of the competition, Ellard said he chose his friends for his team and they finished the project in three months.
Each of the three contributes knowledge in different areas. Ellard said Hughes is strong in math and is a computer science major at University of California, San Diego.
“He can let us know if it’s physically impossible. Max was there to be the anchor of reality,” Ellard said.
“When Tylor approached me, I was both interested and skeptical we could do something this big,” Hughes said. With a laugh, he added that Ellard has brilliant ideas but they sometimes have flaws.
Herrera, a biological science major at Cal State San Marcos, said he pointed out that he was only a freshman and was concerned about competing against others with much more knowledge. But, he noted, the three have spent a lot of time together.
“I thought it was fun,” he said of their collaboration.
In deciding what they should invent, Ellard said he considered something that involved propulsion or renewable energy, but decided many inventors choose those fields.
“I picked something that was in my strong suit,” he explained.
At age 14, Ellard said he designed a lightweight type of body armor. Much of his inspiration comes from his childhood hero: Ironman.
“He didn’t have superpowers. He used his brain,” said Ellard.
The inventor said the idea to design a grenade came from an incident that his brother, U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Ellard, experienced when in Afghanistan in 2009. His brother and other squad members were pinned down behind a Humvee and the grenades they threw were short of their range, he said.
When designing a new grenade, their aim was to increase the range and explosive direction, said Ellard.
To make their grenade cost-effective, Ellard said they spent a lot of time researching so their product would be less expensive to produce than current grenades.
Assisting Ellard was his adviser at Palomar, Sherry Titus. He also talked to Navy weapons officers, active duty Marines, and two Army Rangers, he said.
Results from the competition should be released soon, said Ellard. If the three young inventors place among the finalists, they will receive an all-expenses paid trip to present their work to a panel of judges in Washington, D.C.
The prizes in the undergraduate division are $12,500 for gold; $10,000 for silver; and $5,000 for bronze. Ellard’s adviser would receive 10 to 20 percent of the winnings.
If they win, all three agreed they would split the money and it would go toward their college expenses. Ellard said they plan to pursue a patent for the design.
According to Ellard, he may follow in the footsteps of many of his family members as the Marine Corps has offered him a commission. He plans to apply to the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
Said Ellard: “I really want to be one of those people who could change the world.”
Both he and Herrera participated in the Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps at Ramona High School. Herrera said he wants to become a doctor in the Marine Corps or U.S. Navy.