By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
After a bicycle wreck forced her mother to use crutches for a time, third-grader Charlotte Madden was inspired to create a pouch that her mother could hang on the crutch’s cross bar and keep things that she wanted to reach easily. Thus was born “The Crutch Pouch.”
Charlotte liked being an inventor, and she would enjoy doing that again. What that next invention might be remains to be seen. “I would like to give it a little thought,” Charlotte said.
The inspiration for fourth-grader Ruby Powers’ invention came when she was sewing with her grandmother and realized that, if she wasn’t very careful, the needle on the sewing machine could jab her. A thimble would be too bulky to use in the tight space and it might come off anyway. So, with the help of some fabric, cardboard and Velcro, she created “It’s ‘Sew’ Easy.”
“It protects your finger,” Ruby said. “I thought it would make a finger safer.”
The list of marvelous inventions on display at Whitaker Elementary School’s second annual Invention Convention goes on and on. Anyone with more than one child knows that there are times when a sibling barrier that can be placed between two children in the back seat would be most welcome.
And, when you’re out on the patio enjoying a soda on a summer’s day, who wouldn’t want a “Huggie Hat” to cover the top to make sure that a bee doesn’t sneak into it while you go into the house for a moment? Second-grader Jonathan Wearn said that he had so much fun coming up with the “Huggie Hat” that he’s been thinking about creating an invention that uses a miniature helicopter with a grabbing device. It could go over and pick up a slice of pizza, a toy or a piece of candy when you would rather have it brought to you than go get it.
Although the Invention Convention had tri-boards and other elements associated with science fairs, it had features not always part of science fair projects. “This is totally original,” said Catherine Chitty, who teaches fourth grade. “This is a problem they have experienced. How do you fix it?”
Because the students have come up with the inventions on their own, she said, they tend to quite engaged in the process. “They can tell you all about it,” Chitty said.
“The kids are making it relevant for themselves,” said Principal Brenda Herman. “They are making a solution.”
The students were also asked to come up with a marketing plan to promote their invention. Some went so far as to create videos that could be used as commercials. Some imagined their commercial being shown during the Super Bowl. Others thought it best to start more modestly and see how things go. One way or another, they had a lot of fun.
“There has been a lot of enthusiasm for this project,” Herman said.
Bobby Stern, the school’s curriculum coordinator, coordinated the Invention Convention. Stern said that he was impressed with how creative the students were. “Some of the stuff is really, really good.”
Stern invited three judges to come to the school to look at the inventions and award trophies to students in such categories as “Most Useful for Adults,” “Most Useful for Kids,” and “Most Likely to Get a Patent.” The judges were Kesha Dawson, the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) coordinator at Wiley Middle School; Betty Jo Moore, who teaches sixth-grade science at Wiley; and Paul Kortenaar, the executive director at SciWorks.
In conjunction with a PTA meeting on the night of Feb. 6, families came to see everyone’s invention and winners were given trophies. Fourth-grader Wes Daniel received a “Most Useful for Kids” award for the “Bully Buster,” and fifth-grader David Sieg received a “Most Useful for Adults” award for an application called “Track Your Time.”
“It lets you set a time limit for your kids,” David said. “Kids play video games too much.”
David freely acknowledged that, at times, he is one of those young people. He and his parents, Richard and Amanda Sieg, have agreed on two hours a day. “I always drift over,” he said.
Fifth-grader Hunter Thompson received a “Mostly Likely to Get a Patent” award for his “EarBud Buddy,” a storage container for ear buds that definitely meets a need in his life. “I have always lost my ear buds,” he said.
He made his prototype orange. “It’s my favorite color,” he said. That’s partly because the tiger is his favorite animal and partly because orange is associated with Halloween, which happens to be his birthday. When he is out trick-or-treating, he may mention that it’s his birthday. “My neighbors will give me extra candy.”
Hunter would be delighted to patent his “EarBud Buddy” and have it make him rich one day. For now, he is content to start with a modest approach to marketing. “I will adjust my marketing plan as business grows,” he said.
Here is a complete list of award-winning inventions:
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