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Inventions        < Previous


Kid Inventors: Brain Children



Today's Snack: You are what you eat! That expression goes double when it comes to your brain. You should eat "brain food" - foods that are good for your body in general, but especially your brain. If you eat candy, frosting, packaged cookies or a lot of table sugar, you will be hurting your brain because those simple sugars get into your bloodstream really fast and give your brain a "sugar high" followed quickly by a "sugar low." You won't do as well in school because your memory won't be as good. There are certain foods that are really good for your brain, though. So for today's snack, take your pick from one or more of these brain foods: carrots, nuts, green tea, 1 T. flax oil, 4 ounces of tuna or salmon, and soy products such as soy milk and tofu.






After School Treats notebook (any spiral notebook will do) and a pen or pencil




In your After School Treats notebook, you should have a section devoted to "Inventions." As you learn about these inventions made by children, be thinking of something that YOU could invent. Start by listing problems that occur to you as you go about your daily life. You don't have to invent the solutions right away, but you've got to start somewhere. Keep your "inventions to do" list and, whenever you have a spare moment, add more details, brainstorm solutions, draw designs, record questions, and whatever else you need to do to bring your creative ideas to life.


They're your "brain children." A "brain child" is the result of your creative thinking. If you invent something, you have produced a "brain child." But what if the person doing the inventing is a child, too? That just makes it twice as fun to learn about them!


Most inventions come because the person was trying. But some inventions have come because the person was just goofing around. With the inventions made by children, we see both reasons for the invention. Most inventions come from adults. But it's fun to see the ideas of kids developed into unique and useful products.


They say "necessity is the mother of invention." Sometimes when you are just going about your daily routine, you think of a better way to do something. Sometimes, you put materials together to create your invention. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.


But these kids were able to take their ideas and develop them to the point where they could get a patent on them. A patent is a right granted by the government that allows you to be the only one who can manufacture, use and sell your invention. You have to apply for it and prove that your invention is your original work, not copied off of someone else's work, and that it's unique enough to be a separate, new invention. Once you have a patent, then if anybody else wants to make or sell your idea, they have to pay you money to do it. That's niiiiiiiiiice.


So let's look at these bright young kid inventors:


  • Theresa Thompson, 8, and her sister Mary, 9, invented a solar teepee for a science project in 1960. They called it a "Wigwarm," a takeoff on the wigwam, the Native American word for a round or oval dwelling made with poles, bark, mats or animal skins.



  • Robert Patch, 6, received a patent in 1963 for a toy truck that could be changed into different types of trucks.  


  • Brandon Whale invented the "PaceMate" in 1998. It improved the electrical conductivity of his mother's sensor-bracelets after she had an operation for a pacemaker implant. Brandon's brother, Spencer, invented a device to attach IV's to the wheeled vehicles that child patients rode in, so that the IV's would stay in place.  


  • Becky Schroeder was 14 when she thought of painting glow-in-the-dark, or phosphorescent, paint on paper. Once it was dry, then she could write on that paper in the dark. The glow from the paint gave her enough light. Her invention has been used in all sorts of ways:  doctors and nurses can use specially-treated paper in hospitals to read patients' charts at night without waking them, and astronauts use it when their electrical systems are turned down for charging. It's not real easy to find a flashlight up in outer space, you know.


  • Jeanie Low was 11 when she got a patent on March 10, 1992, for inventing the Kiddie Stool. It's a fold-up stool that fits under the sink so that kids can take it out, unfold it, stand on it, and reach the sink. No more excuses for kids who don't want to do the dishes or brush their teeth!
  • Suzanna Goodin, 6, was grossed out when she had to clean the cat food spoon. So she came up with the idea of an edible spoon-shaped cracker. Edible, that is, for the cat! She won a grand prize for her invention in the Weekly Reader National Invention Contest.


  • Another Weekly Reader contest winner was Pamela Sica. At age 14, she invented a push-button device that raises the floor of a car so that the cargo, or things that you want to load and transport in the car, could be lifted up and out more easily. She didn't patent her invention because the process, which usually involves hiring an attorney, was too expensive.


  • Rich Stachowski invented Water Talkies in 1996 at age 10. They are underwater walkie talkies. He entered a toy company's contest, the Wild Planet Kid Inventor Challenge. The company bought the rights to his invention and started selling it.


  • Another Wild Planet contest winner was Shannon Crabill, who invented what she called the "Create-your-own-message-alarm-clock." Wild Planet also bought that invention, renamed it "Talk Time," and put it on the market. Shannon got to go on Oprah Winfrey's TV show and featured in Oprah magazine.


  • Stephanie Mui, 10, invented the "See and Tweezz," aimed at removing splinters and ticks. It is an all-in-one magnifying glass, tweezers and light.


  • It takes a lot of energy to hold your foot up when you're on crutches. But Tessanie Marek, 11, came up with "Easy Crutches." A pedal connected to the crutch supports your foot as you move forward with the crutches.


  • Matthew Nettleton, 8, invented the "Pin Picker." If you drop straight pins on hardwood floors or carpets, this invention can help you find them and pick them up before somebody steps on them in their bare feet and goes "YAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!"


  • Over a century ago, a little girl named Margaret Knight, age 9, was working in a cotton mill. She saw a steel-tipped shuttle fly out of a loom and hit a nearby worker. A shuttle is a device that looks kind of like a boat that moves back and forth across a loom working with fabric or thread. Anyway, this little girl invented a device that restrains a shuttle to keep the workers safe. Later, at age 30, she invented a machine that makes the square-bottom paper bags we still use for groceries today. It was patented in 1871.


  • More recently, Chelsea Lannon received a patent in 1994 for her "pocket diaper." It's a diaper that has a pocket that holds a baby wipe and baby powder puff. She got her idea while helping her mother with her baby brother. She was still in kindergarten!


  • Last, but not least, don't you just hate it when your breakfast cereal gets soggy? Eleven-year-old Paul Simmons did. So he invented the Anti-Soggy Cereal Bowl. It's a double bowl with springs arranged so that you use just the right amount of milk.


Here are some more inspiring kid inventions:


And here are two books about girls inventors:


Elsie's Invention by Mary Mapes Dodge

The Big Balloon Race by Eleanor Coerr

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has a website for kids and parents. It explains what patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets are, and how to apply for a patent:


Don't forget to keep adding to your "Inventions" section in your After School Treats notebook! Someday, maybe kids will be reading about YOU!!!

By Susan Darst Williams Inventions 05 2008

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