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Invent this!

Oops! Proof[TM] No-Spill Bowl

by Alexia Abernathy, grade 9 Washington High School Cedar Rapids, IA

Alexia Abernathy's invention started as a science-fair project in elementary school. "When I was in fifth grade and a baby-sitter came to our house, her kid would play and run around jiggling his bowl of food," Alexia says. The food would spill out and I was always the one who had to clean it up." Finding a way to prevent food from spilling out of a bowl seemed like a great project idea, Alexia says.

To design a model of her invention, Alexia glued a small plastic bowl inside a larger one. "Then I cut a hole in the larger bowl's lid," she says. The two bowls and the lid make one wide rim which prevents food from spilling.

Alexia entered her spill-proof bowl in Invent, Iowa!--an invention competition for kids. A lot of people at Invent, Iowa! thought that other people could use Alexia's invention. So she talked to a lawyer about applying for a patent, a document that gives an inventor and manufacturer exclusive rights to make and sell a product.

It took a year for Alexia to find a company that was interested in producing her bowl. "I met with the people at the company, gave them my ideas, and showed them my prototype," says Alexia. The company worked with her to come up with the final design and packaging.

Now Alexia's Oops! Proof[TM] No-Spill Feeding Bowl can be found in stores like Toys "R" Us and Target. Alexia receives royalties, a share of the product's profits, four times a year. So far she's made about $3,000.


by Jeff Choinksi, James Thompson (behind cooler), Terrell Lewis (for right), Jeff Stevenson, Mike Rucker, and Ryan Pliska, grade 7 Middle School of Plainville Plainville, CT

Our team had to come up with a problem to solve for Innovations Across Generations, an invention contest," says Jeff Choinski. The contest pairs volunteers from General Electric with middle-school kids.

"We started thinking about how much stuff we had to carry to the beach," Jeff says. "So we figured that having a cooler with a built-in radio would be cool," he says.

Jeff and his team bought a cooler, a personal stereo, and a pair of small speakers. Then the team sketched out diagrams to find the best place for the stereo equipment, Jeff says. They drew a diagram on the outside of the cooler and cut out part of the cooler wall. The team fit the stereo and speakers inside the cutouts and attached them to the cooler using Velero. "We left enough space above the radio so you can get your fingers in to use the controls," Jeff says. Next, the team insulated the back of the stereo equipment to protect the wires from getting wet.

Jeff says the project was fun because he got to do something creative while hanging out with his friends. "But it was frustrating, too," he recalls, "because we kept messing up." Sometimes the team cut too much of the coolers foam wars away, he admits. "So we had to buy some new coolers to try again." Now that Cool Tunes can play, says Jeff, "we're hoping we get a patent so we can sell our invention."


by Tracy Phillips, grade 12 Long Beach High School Long ileach, NY

Invented an electronic device for blind people that tells them the denominations of paper money from $1 to $20 bills," says Tracy Phillips. She invented the device because she had a little brother who was blind, she says. "I always wanted to help blind people."

Every bill has different light and dark patterns on it, Tracy explains. For example, a certain spot on a $1 bill will be dark, but on a $5 bill the same spot will be light. When you put a bill in the Money Talks wallet, says Tracy, a light beam inside passes through the bill to detect the different patterns. A light detector signals a voice chip to "call out" the denomination of the bill. The whole device is contained within a normal-size wallet, Tracy says.

Tracy worked on her invention for two years before she got Money Talks talking, she says. Her invention won first place in the Duracell/NSTA Scholarship Competition. She won $20,000 and a trip to California. Tracy's invention also won a $30,000 second prize in the Westinghouse Talent Search. "Money Talks is not on the market yet," says Tracy, "but I've been talking to some business people." Hopefully it will be available soon, she says.


by Elizabeth Nothan and Gabrielic Pollock, grade 12 The Brearley School New York, NY

Elizabeth Nathan and Gabriella Pollack came up with the idea of inventing a nonreusable syringe to "help stop the spread of AIDS," says the team. After one use, the syringe plunger becomes immobilized. And if a person pulls the plunger out, the needle breaks off so it can't be used again.

"I came up with the idea after reading an article about AIDS," says Elizabeth. She learned that the disease can spread when someone reuses a dirty needle to inject drugs. At the time, Elizabeth's chemistry class was also using a syringelike device to demonstrate the relationship between pressure and volume.

"We wrote up our idea and entered it in the NYNEX Science and Technology Awards competition," says Gabriella. "We didn't have to make a prototype [model]," she adds, "but we had to write a paper describing the reason for the invention, and the invention itself. "Our invention won first prize at the competition: $15,000 each and grant money to develop the intervention with a university," says Gabriel. "We don't have the time to work on our invention right now," she adds, "so we are going to wait until next summer."

Automatic Indoor Plant Waterer

by Jason Harvey and Troy Karwowski, grade 7 Middle School of Plainville Plainville, CT

Our research team invented an automatic indoor plant waterer for the innovations Across Generations competition," says Jason Harvey. The device has an electrical adaptor (which controls the amount of electrical power), a timer, a pump, and a jug (which you fill with water). "First you set the timer to when you want the plant waterer to turn on and off," says Jason. The timer turns the pump on and off and can be set for more than one day.

To control how much water trickles into your plant, says Jason, you adjust the power on the adaptor. The higher the voltage the more water the pump will pump into the plant. Result: Greener, leafier plants for people who travel.

To protect your furniture and other belongings from being splashed by water, the team surrounds the water-filled jug with a plexiglass case. The plexiglass also separates the water from the electricity, Jason says. That's important to prevent an electrical shock or fire.

The team's hope for the future? "If we can get a patent," says Jeff, "we hope that we make millions of dollars."

Want to learn more about inventions?

Visit Inventure Place, the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio. This new museum celebrates great inventors and their inventions. The museum will even have a special hall of fame for teens, the National Gallery of Teen Inventors.

Maybe the cool inventions on these pages--or one of your own--will be featured there soon.

To write for more information about some of the invention competitions mentioned here, check out our resource guide on page 27.

Export Promotion

* The State Department's Trade and Development Agency (TDA) will sponsor a conference on airport development in Central and Eastern Europe in Warsaw on October 15-18, 1995. The conference is being organized for TDA by the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE). U.S. Government agencies participating in the conference include TDA, the Department of Commerce, FAA, OPIC, and the Ex-Im Bank. U.S. firms will be able to meet with airport decision makers from 30 airports of Central and Eastern European nations and the former Soviet Union. For registration information, pontact Spencer Dickerson of AAAE at 703-824-0500.

* The US&FCS in Paris, in cooperation with the National Association of Home Builders, is organizing a U.S. Pavilion at BATIMAT, November 6-11, 1995. BATIMAT is the major building product show held in France every two years, and is among the largest building product shows in the world. There are several options available for U.S. companies who wish to participate. (For further information see the press release on page vi.

* The Trade and Development Agency has released a new study of 100 promising infrastructure projects in South America. The list identifies potential export opportunities of $4 billion in 10 countries. Most of these infrastructure projects are in the telecommunications, energy, transportation, environment, and industrial sectors. For further information contact TDA at 703-875-4357.

* TDA has also released a report detailing 26 infrastructure-related projects in Northern Ireland and adjacent counties of the Republic of Ireland. The value of these projects exceeds $500 million and includes both export and investment opportunities. Projects range from large water treatment plants and transportation projects worth more than $15 million to smaller consulting-type services valued at less than $500,000. The report covers key contacts, market requirements, regulatory trends, required steps, potential teaming partners, and financing options. The publication (#PB95-201356) is available for $27 from NTIS at 703-487-4660.

* The U.S. Commercial staff in Portugal has launched a new program to help small and medium-sized U.S. firms gain access to markets in Portugal. Portugall is a dial-up data base that is available 24 hours a day from your desktop. Portugall provides a description of services available from the U.S. Embassy Commercial Service in Portugal, information on specific market opportunities, qualified trade contacts, and a bulletin board with current trade leads. A teleconferencing service is also available. For a copy of the Portugall guide, contact Ana Paula Vila by telephone at 351-1-726-6600, by FAX at 351-1-726-8914, or by Internet on "".

* The State Department has published a fact sheet containing information on State Department services available to the public. The fact sheet also includes information on publications, such as the Diplomatic List of of official foreign diplomatic representatives in Washington. To obtain this fact sheet and other publications, contact State's Fax-on-demand at 202-736-7720 or call 202-647-6575.

* The Commerce Department's foreign commercial officers have reported on building product markets in 62 countries, with emphasis on prospects for U.S. building product exporters. The results are presented in a 30-page report "Best Markets Report for Building Product". Construction Review subscribers can obtain a free copy by calling Franklin Williams at 202-482-0133.

* The Commerce Department's Eastern European Business Information Center (EEBIC) regularly publishes "Eastern Europe Looks for Partners". The March 9, 1995 issue featured opportunities in housing, construction, and consumer goods. It carried 19 construction and real estate leads. For a free copy of the report or for further information, call EEBIC at 202-482-2645.

* Companies interested in Russia and the other newly independent states may wish to contact the Commerce Department's Business Information Service for the Newly Independent States (BISNIS). BISNIS has prepared a number of handouts, including a list of useful housing/construction contacts in Russia, a list of market research companies with expertise in Russia, and a list of U.S. construction and real estate companies in Moscow. The Washington BISNIS office may be contacted by telephone at 202-482-4655 or by FAX at 202-482-2293.

About the Cover

* The graph on this issue's cover shows trends in building product exports since 1989. In the aggregate these exports totalled $16 billion, and accounted for 3 percent of all U.S. exports of goods. (For information on construction service exports, see the feature article in the Fall 1994 issue.) These building product exports have increased by about 40 percent since 1989. For a detailed description of this subject, see the feature article beginning on page iv.

Editor's Notes

* The Bureau of the Census has expanded the number of building permit issuing places that it surveys, from 17,000 places to 19,000. Beginning with this issue of Construction Review, the 19,000-place series will appear in tables C-1 through C-8. For more information regarding the new series, see page 14 of the statistical pages.

* The Census Bureau has also deleted several mid-sized cities from its monthly estimates of building permits issued. This has necessitated changes in the metropolitan areas covered in tables C-3 and C-8. The feature article beginning on page xxiii describes these changes.
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Title Annotation:Special Issue: Science-Project Survival Guide; five science projects are turned into inventions by students
Author:Karwowski, Troy
Publication:Science World
Date:Sep 15, 1995
Previous Article:Publish your project!
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