WILSON, N.C. (WNCN) – A 12-year-old Wilson girl’s inventions are winning big. Lydia Denton recently won first prize, a $20,000 check, in a national contest.

She said inventing is not about the money. It’s about making the world better.

To Lydia, a problem is also an opportunity.

“She is a fixer,” explained her mother, Covey Denton.

When she heard about children dying in hot cars, Lydia created the “Beat The Heat Car Seat.” The system can sense when a baby is overheating, then alert parents and emergency crews. This spring, she learned the car seat won first prize in the Citgo and Discovery Education Fueling Education Challenge.

“Me and mom completely went ballistic because we didn’t think there was any shot that we would actually win it,” Lydia recalled.

They probably shouldn’t have been surprised. It’s not her first invention or her first win. Lydia and two friends already won $15,000 for their school with an oxygen sensor that can help prevent drownings or warn people of other medical emergencies.

“The pulse oxygen gets below 85%, then it will contact 911 and send the GPS location,” Lydia said.

She’s also created a helmet to help prevent concussions. Lydia often works with her sister and brother who are also interested in science. It runs in the family. Their mom teaches science to elementary and middle school children.

Lydia and her 10-year-old sister Bethany recently created a brand new invention, prompted by the pandemic: a device that turns plastic grocery bags into protective mittens.

They had a little extra assistance for that one.

“Our neighbor Mark used to be an engineer for Kidde Aerospace and he volunteered to help,” Covey said. “They met outside. He brought in tools from his workshop, and they worked about four hours to get it working.”

“We used a UV light to destroy the bacteria and germs on the plastic bags,” Bethany said.

Of course, there are setbacks from time to time.

“With this one, we almost burned Mr. Mark’s garage down,” Lydia said.

“Things will spark. Things will explode. It happens. They know not to do It without me there right beside them,” Covey said. “But, we do have a fire extinguisher and we do have burn gel.”

Lydia knows she won’t win every contest.

“I just take it as mine wasn’t the best and there are things that I can improve. And I learn from that,” she said.

When she’s an adult, Lydia hopes to become a biomedical engineer and an actor. For now, she wants to continue to improve her design for the car seat and eventually get it patented.

Lydia also has a lot more inventions in mind.

“There’s so many ideas in my head just bouncing around. Things that can be fixed,” she said. “I want to be able to fix them and be able to change something and be able to help people.”