Rich Stachowski invented Water Talkies™
in 1996, when he was just 10 years old, as part of Wild Planet's Kid
Inventor Challenge contest. He formed his own company to make more
toys when he saw how popular his invention had become. Wild Planet
then acquired Rich's company. Now he can go back to being a kid
Young Shannon Crabill
invented what she called the "Create-your-own-message-alarm-clock,"
also as part of Wild Planet's contest. Wild Planet changed the name
to "Talk Time." Think that's impressive? Oprah Winfrey sure thought
so, so she invited Shannon to be a guest on the show and she
featured her in Oprah magazine.
Thanks to 10-year-old Stephanie Mui
(that's pronounced "Mui"), it's now easier to remove splinters and
ticks. Her invention, called "See and Tweezz," combines an
all-in-one magnifying glass, tweezers and light. It even comes with
a cute little name. Way to go, Stephanie.
Eleven-year-old Tessanie Marek
invented "Easy Crutches." This pair of crutches allows a person to
rest his or her foot while walking instead of having to hold it up.
How does it work? Easy Crutches contains a pedal that is screwed to
the crutch in a way that supports the foot. Very few people are on
crutches at any given time, but wouldn't it be great to have the
Easy Crutches when you need them?
Then there's 8-year-old, Matthew
Nettleton, who invented the "Pin Picker." The Pin Picker helps you
find and pick up sewing pins that have dropped on the floor. It
works on both hard floors and rugs. 'Atta boy, Matthew!
While the Pin Picker might not be
for everybody, the next invention is. Eleven-year-old Paul Simmons
invented the Anti-Soggy Cereal Bowl. It's a double bowl with
springs, and it keeps your cereal from getting soggy by helping you
use just the right amount of milk.
I can see the letters and e-mails
pouring in already: "But these aren't life-altering inventions.
What's so great about a Pin Picker or an Anti-Soggy Cereal Bowl?"
[to top of second column
in this article]
Since I usually answer critics'
questions with an equally annoying question of my own, I ask, "What
were some of the more famous inventors doing in their early
Thomas Edison created his first
important invention, a telegraphic repeating instrument, while
working as a telegraph operator in 1865. He was 18 at the time.
Three years earlier, he had begun publishing a weekly newspaper,
which he printed in a freight car that also served as his
What about Ben Franklin? While he
was Ben Franklin the Inventor, he was also Ben Franklin the
Publisher and Ben Franklin the First U.S. Postmaster General. Not to
be outdone (by himself), he was also Ben Franklin the Signer of the
Declaration of Independence, as well as Ben Franklin the First
Person to Appear on a U.S. Postage Stamp.
While you might not recognize the
names of these next two inventors, you probably used their
inventions when you were a kid.
In 1873, 17-year-old Chester
Greenwood applied for a patent for his earmuffs. Nothing significant
about that, except that his factory made these earmuffs for the next
60 years, and Greenwood went on to create more than 100 other
Then there's the story of
16-year-old George Nissen, who built a rectangular frame with a
piece of canvas stretched across it in 1930 and called it a
trampoline. George had designed it in his parents' garage and built
it out of steel materials from a junkyard.
Could any of our six young inventors
turn out to be the next Thomas Edison or the next Marie Curie? Who
knows, but they're off to a pretty good start if they decide to
Paul Niemann is the author of
"Invention Mysteries -- The Little-Known Stories Behind Well-Known
Inventions." He can be reached at
© Copyright Paul Niemann 2004