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Georgia Patent Assistance for STEM Students (PASS) Program

About the PASS Program

The Georgia Patent Assistance for STEM Students (PASS) program was launched in 2019 and was developed in conjunction with the Georgia Science and Engineering Fair (GSEF). The PASS program seeks to support young researchers in their pursuit of innovation by raising awareness of intellectual property protection and patenting resources. 

The highlight of the PASS program is a Young Inventor’s Award sponsored by Meunier Carlin & Curfman, an Atlanta-based intellectual property law firm. The firm sponsors an award granting 10 hours of legal assistance to a deserving GSEF participant that demonstrates innovation and has a high likelihood of success in pursuit of a patent application. The winner is selected by a group of GIPA volunteers, including several intellectual property and patent professionals, who interview the student exhibitors. 


GIPA PASS Volunteer Judges from 2022: from left to right Michael Frnka; GIPA IP Awareness Team Facilitator; Christopher Curfman, PhD; Principal, Sponsoring Firm: Meunier Carlin & Curfman; Elizabeth Lester; Assistant General Counsel, Intellectual Property, Equifax; Craig Cupid, Partner, Baker Law; Jordan Wesel, Licensing Manager at Innovation Gateway, UGA; Aisha Marinho; Patent Agent, Alston & Bird LLP


The program is the brainchild of Michael Frnka, a retired engineer who began judging regional and statewide science and engineering fairs after retiring; Laura Brewer, a program coordinator at the UGA Center for Continuing Education & Hotel; and Chris Curfman, a patent attorney with Meunier, Carlin & Curfman. Brewer believes that the program has become a great motivator for GSEF participants interested in innovation and invention, observing that “The opportunity to work with IP attorneys shows our participants that they are already capable of doing patentable research … And it empowers them to take ownership of their ideas so they can continue to grow as young STEM scholars.”

List of Prior Winners

2022: Elizabeth Richter, Elizabeth Stinespring, and Matthew Braun - Active Model Rocket Descent Control 

2021: Aarushi Guin - Smart Slouch Arrestor

2020: Scott Powers - Computer Vision Based 3D Printing Error Detection

2019: Liauna Kelly and Grace Kirkland - CPAP mask-mount sensor prototype for individuals with sleep apnea

Replays of the GSEF awards ceremonies can be viewed on Georgia Public Broadcasting.