Madison Lucey of Milford is only 17 years old, but she’s already a sophomore at Central Penn College. She’s working on her bachelor of science degree in information technology and is expected to graduate when she’s 19.
Madison won a paid software engineering internship at the Amazon headquarters in Seattle and a $40,000 Amazon Future Engineer Scholarship. She won a $25,000 National Honor Society Scholarship Award. She invented a life-saving car seat device to prevent infants from being trapped in hot cars. She was part of an engineering team that created an artificially intelligent (AI) seed planter. She’s given a TED Talk. She’s championed legislation. Besides all that, she’s an athlete who plays soccer and volleyball.
During high school, she was elected president of multiple organizations, and skipped her freshman year to graduate a year early.
A friend suggested that Madison attend an online school so that she would have more time for dancing, karate, guitar, and athletic extracurriculars, so she switched from Delaware Valley High School to Commonwealth Charter Academy (CCA), a large public cyber charter school. She did her work virtually through Zoom sessions. “Teachers at cyber school were much more available than teachers from a traditional brick and mortar school,” she said.
What she did with her extra time is truly astonishing.
Hot Cars Act
At 15 Madison started a school computer club, where members made robots. After reading a news article about a child accidentally left in a hot car, Madison devised a way to alert drivers when a child was still inside.
She spoke with Pennsylvania legislators, including the House education committee chair representative, Curt Sonney, to raise awareness about the problem. Lucey hooked up with the media, and created a petition at Change.org asking then-U.S. Rep. Tom Marino to forge ahead with a bill. He did, with co-sponsors Jan Schakosky, Tim Ryan, and Peter King.
The Hot Cars Act of 2017 was passed by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as part of The Self Drive Act. Madison’s emails, letters, and other activism led to the new Hot Cars Act of 2019, which mandates more stringent safety standards for new cars.
Meter choice advocate
At age 16, Madison wrote Senate Bill 791, which allows utility customers to keep their analog meter if they don’t want a smart meter. Her bill is still pending in the Pennsylvania legislature, in the Professional Licensure Committee, stalled for the moment by COVID-19.
“I saw an issue with the smart meters that the electric companies use,” Madison said. “Analog and smart meters measure the amount of electricity used in a residential or commercial building and provide data on the amount of electricity used. Sounds great right? However, there have been numerous complaints about the accuracy of smart meter readings. Many smart meter consumers have reported increasingly high electric bills and have expressed concern about whether the smart meter’s use of radio waves is safe or can lead to health issues. In Pennsylvania, when the electric company wants to change an analog meter to a smart meter, we as consumers don’t have a choice.”
Out of 41 states that considered smart meter opt-outs, she said, Pennsylvania is the only state that does not provide a choice. “If you’d rather stay with an analog meter, but are forced into having a smart meter, what would you do to solve the problem?” she said. “Would you complain to the electric company? Would you yell at the representative on the phone when they tell you there’s nothing they can do about it? Would you organize a protest march? I feel that people should have a choice regarding which meter they have.”
In her school’s Youth and Government Club, her assignment was to write a bill. “I chose to write a bill that would allow Pennsylvania residents to choose which meter they want,” she said. “After I completed it for my school assignment, I decided to make it real!”
She did extensive legal research and developed a website (ehs.group) to show every other state’s legislation on the matter. The website includes a customized petition that goes to every representative and senator in the state. “After an influx of petitions from residents across the state, my bill picked up momentum,” she said. “This was the impetus that got me noticed and listened to by the legislators. I then took the bill that I had written to Senator Mike Folmer, and he actually listened! “
Madison led an engineering internship team at AgWorks, the largest educational aquaponics laboratory in the country, to create an automated artificially intelligent (AI) seed planter. Her team’s seeder incorporates machine learning, artificial intelligence, and solar power to be both self-sustainable and mobile.
“I demonstrated the robot live to the PA House Education Committee advocating for additional opportunities for girls in STEM,” Madison said. “Aquaponics is the marriage and the bond between the fish and plants, because the fish produce waste, and that is then food for the plants, but also the plants will clean the water that can then be used back for the fish again. Because of this, aquaponics uses 93 percent less water than traditional agriculture. That is a huge difference! Because the water can just be recycled back again. Simply said, it produces more food with fewer resources.”
Last summer Madison gave a talk on “How to Truly Solve a Problem” at TEDxYouth@Lancaster2019. The executive director, Bob Vasile, then invited her to return to TEDx and serve as the team leader for the curation committee of TEDxLancaster.
“I haven’t taken an IQ test because I feel that it only serves as a deflection away from what our true values should be,” said Madison. “An IQ test is basically a measure of a person’s potential based on their intelligence. In my opinion, rather than valuing potential, let’s put an emphasis on action. In my TEDx talk I stated that I demonstrate by action that if I can solve a problem, anyone can. This statement holds true regardless of someone’s IQ. Everyone has a gift or talent. What’s important is that they use that gift to help others and not let it remain dormant. That’s worth so much more than a test score.”
As part of her Amazon award and internship, which is for three months, Madison will work with a professional software engineering team and fellow interns to build products that have a real impact on Amazon customers. “I expect my work will be primarily geared toward disaster relief – pandemic and climate change – fighting childhood hunger and family homelessness,” Madison said. “In addition to my work, my fellow cohort and I will participate in various activities that bond us and expose us to Amazon’s technology and senior leaders.”
She says Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is her favorite technology innovator. “At an early age, I read his biography and was inspired by everything that he did,” Madison said. “What I like the most about Steve Jobs is that, although he had problems and setbacks in his career, he was very determined and always made a powerful comeback. He changed the world for the better and unfortunately left it too soon.”
Madison is also an entrepreneur.
She started the Etsy business CatsCraft Official Slime Shop with her two older sisters, Mallory and Megan. They create dozens of varieties of slime, with intoxicating names like Red Raspurry Slushie slime and Cotton Kitty MeowDough slime.
“As a team with my sisters, we started and implemented our own business plan,” she said. “It has become highly successful and has been expanding. We create unique handmade products which we are selling on the internet. It started with just a few products and now we have seventy-five different products each with multiple customizable variations for the consumer. We have 1,680 sales on Etsy and 28,450 sales on eBay with top-rated seller status. As of this writing, we have been accepted as an Amazon handmade seller and plan to move into this market niche.”
She said Mallory is the creative one, coming up with all of the creative ideas and themes for the slime business. She also does most of the work running the business, and Madison helps out when needed. Mallory opted to go straight into business after graduation from high school.
Madison has been invited to write a blog for The Central Penn College Knightly News Media Blog.
Just as this story was being completed, an email arrived from Madison.
“I just wanted to share with you that yesterday, after our last communication, I was offered and accepted a position as a reporter for the Central Penn College Knightly News Media Blog!” she said. “I’m sure that I’ll have some training to do before I publish my first blog, but I was excited to let you know and will share it with you after I write it :)”
Madison Lucey of Milford is truly one to watch and -- with whatever time you might be able to free up for the projects you’ve long wanted to pursue -- to emulate.
“I haven’t taken an IQ test because I feel that it only serves as a deflection away from what our true values should be. An IQ test is basically a measure of a person’s potential based on their intelligence. In my opinion, rather than valuing potential, let’s put an emphasis on action.” --Madison Lucey