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Release: April 25, 2001

UI, Iowa State to hold Invent Iowa 2001 April 29

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- You've got to agree with 11-year-old Steve Hobart of Indianola -- those cardboard X-ray holders that dentists stick in your mouth taste pretty crummy.

"They always make me gag," says Hobart, a sixth-grader at Indianola Middle School whose mom is a dental hygienist.

So Hobart set to work finding a way to make the cardboard more palatable. After dousing them with various fruity concoctions -- most of which just left the cardboard soggy -- he struck upon an idea. He put some of the holders in an airtight container for several days along with cotton balls soaked in flavor extracts of strawberry, mint and cherry, and, voila! Flavored X-rays.

Hobart is one of 367 young inventors from across the state who will showcase 293 projects at the 2001 State Invention Convention at Iowa State University Sunday, April 29. The program, sponsored by the Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development and the UI and Iowa State Colleges of Engineering, will bring together students in third-grade through high school to demonstrate inventions that they think will make life easier for people -- or at least more entertaining. A sampling of this year's innovations include products with such intriguing names as Old Maid Away, Peanut Butter Slices, the Sizzlin' Stool and Different Colors for Cows.

Invent Iowa will take place in ISU's Memorial Union Sunday, with evaluations from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and a public viewing session from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Recognition ceremonies are scheduled for 2 p.m. and 3:15 p.m.

"Invent Iowa is a great way to help students of all ages develop their creative and inventive problem-solving talents," said Clar M. Baldus, Ph.D., state coordinator of Invent Iowa, as well as administrator of the Belin-Blank Center's Rural Schools Programs and Inventiveness Programs. "Students use creative as well as critical thinking to develop an invention that will solve what they see 'real-world' problems. The best part is that students gain inventive problem solving skills that carry over into their lives."

Now in its 14th year, Invent Iowa is far more than a science fair. Students are encouraged to develop inventions or innovations that generally meet the requirements for a patent in the United States. In other words, they must be "new, useful and non-obvious." To make the experience more meaningful, students are encouraged to keep journals chronicling their inventions from concept to completion.

To reach the state convention, inventions must first pass the muster at local and regional meets sponsored by the state's 15 Area Educational Associations. Last year's Invent Iowa state competition was held at the UI, which has agreed with Iowa State to alternate campus sites each year.

A new element added to the convention this year was a "Vision of Inventiveness" competition that encouraged Iowa students in kindergarten through high school to submit artwork for the event. Nearly 200 young artists entered works. Eisel, which features an easel made from a guitar, a shovel, stacked paint cans and a compass, was submitted by 12th-grader Jeff Connor of Corydon. It was selected to adorn the back of this year's Invent Iowa t-shirts, which are given to all participants. And The Power of One, a work by 12th-grader David Schmitz of Charles City featuring hands sketching around a circle that says "Dream, Believe, Create," was selected for the program cover illustration.

It's clear many students dream about eating, given the number of inventions with food themes this year. For instance, Old Maid Away, an invention by fourth-grader Lindsey Schaefer of Eason Elementary School in Waukee, used screen-like hardware cloth in a bowl to separate popped corn from the unpopped seeds, or "old maids." Brandon Lash, a sixth-grader at Montezuma Community Schools, got tired of tearing his bread whenever he tried to spread on peanut butter. After several trials, he came up with Peanut Butter Slices -- peanut butter spread on wax paper coated with powdered sugar (to keep it from sticking) and hardened in the freezer for easy application.

Sixth-graders Anna Troester of Garnavillo and Abby Kruse of Garber found the task of giving their families' 40 milk cows the right mix of feeds a little daunting, since many of the cows have special dietary requirements. So they developed a color-coding system, using a wall chart that corresponds with colored Velcro strips affixed to each cow's stall. Black means the cow gets no protein in its diet, red means less protein, green means more protein, yellow means no corn, and so on. Thus, Different Colors for Different Cows.

Comfort and convenience were the objectives of other inventors. Seventh-graders Josie Kness and Olivia Krall of Albia developed the Sizzlin' Stool by affixing a heating pad to the underside of a

director's chair to make cold weather outings -- such as tailgating parties, camping and livestock shows -- more bearable. Dustin Swisher, a sixth-grader at Grinnell Middle School who has cerebral palsy and suffers from seizures, and brother Corey Swisher, also a sixth-grader at Grinnell, invented the Golf Helper -- a golf club attached to a stand with a pivot so the club can be directed and swung more easily.

Fifth-grader Lacey Stogdill and fourth-grader Colton Stogdill of Lewis and Clark Elementary School in Council Bluffs have a mom who works with handicapped children. When their mother remarked that she couldn't find bibs big enough to accommodate older children, Lacey and Colton set about to create the Big Kid Bib by removing the sleeves from old shirts and covering the shirts with plastic backing.

The Shelf Sorter for the Blind is the brainchild of Sarah Barnes, a third-grader from Letts who was moved by a television news story she saw about blind people. The Shelf Sorter uses wood rails to create separate spaces for various kinds of canned goods, with each space identified by a small placard written on in Braille.

"I thought with this invention it would help blind people be more independent, so they would be able to do more things for themselves," Barnes wrote in the paperwork accompanying her application to Invent Iowa. "Sometimes it's hard to rely on someone always being there to help you."

More information about Invent Iowa is available at the Belin-Blank Web site: www.uiowa.edu/~belinctr/special-events/ .