Matt Mutolo's brother steals his baseball cards. Kenna Marsden gets so-o-o-o bored vacuuming the house. David Weiner's brother hogs the bathroom. And Joni Fung's cat is always jumping on the dresser.

Karen Becka's parakeet, uh, deposits bird droppings on her hand when shecleans the cage. Bryan Boone gets garbage spilled on his clothes when he takes out the trash and Drew Lowry has to clean smelly toilets.


Those kinds of things can make a third-grader's life miserable. So, after learning how famous inventors applied creative thinking to solve problems, pupils in Marianne L. Hummel's gifted and talented class at Bollman Bridge Elementary School tackled their problems.

The15 students showed off their inventions to parents and other third-graders at last week's "invention convention."


"I hate having my brother steal the cards that are worth money," said Matt. The 8-year-old Savage resident came up with what looks like a book on the outside,but is actually a hiding place for baseball cards. Placed on a bookshelf, it foils would-be baseball card snitchers. Matt knows. He tested it.

Matt used one other card-protection technique. The "book" istitled 'The War,' he explained, "because my brother hates to read about war."

Kenna, 9, of Savage, got tired of vacuuming. But her mother said she wasn't strong enough to scrub the bathtub, so Kenna couldn't trade chores with her sister.

Her solution is a box attached with Velcro strips to the vacuum cleaner canister. The box contains an entertainment selection: headphones for music to clean house by, a diary and a hand-held video game.

David, 8, of Jessup, sees broad applications for "David's Keeper Outer."

"If you have a problem with your brother or sister or your husband or your wife coming into your room, this will help," he said.

To activate David's invention, a string is attached to a door. When an unwanted intruder enters, vibration of the string triggers a remote unit that pulls back a controllever, releasing a car that rolls out and hits the intruder in the legs.

"I made sure it wouldn't hurt," David noted. "I didn't put any pointy things on it." That precaution became necessary after he showed the invention to his brother, whose reported reaction was "If that hits my knees, there's going to be a gun waiting for you."


Joni's cat, Oreo, has a habit of jumping on her dresser. To stop him, the 9-year-old Columbia inventor designed a ramp that leads from a chair to the dresser. When the cat jumps on the chair and walks across the ramp, the inventor pulls a string to stop the cat and push him back to the chair. Simultaneously, the string rings a bell that is supposedto scare Oreo into avoiding future forays.

Karen, a Jessup girl who says her age is "8 and three-quarters," had problems with her parakeet Goober. "It kept on annoying me when the bird kept pooping on me," she said.

Her solution was "The Incredible Fetchable Paper Towel Container," which brings paper towels by string from across the room, eliminating the need to run for the towels after an accident.

The members of Bryan's family put some yucky stuff in the trash. "Sometimes I don't tie it tight enough and some stuff falls out," the 8-year-old Savage resident said. That alone wouldn't be so bad -- except that he has to lift the bag up to get it into the trash container, sothe garbage falls on him.

Bryan's solution is a big plastic trashbag with neck and armholes and attached clear plastic sleeves that end in a glove. The outfit is a little hard to wiggle in and out of without tearing it, but Bryan explained that a different material couldbe used in mass production.

"This is just a model," he said.


Drew's problem arose when the 8-year-old Jessup resident was helping afriend with chores. "He said I should clean the toilets and they were very smelly, so I thought of this invention," Drew said.

Drew took a toilet brush and extended it with a stick on which is mounted a can of air freshner. The person assigned to cleaning first sprays theair with freshner and can then run the brush around the interior of the bowl while standing well back from the offending toilet.

The convention is part of a year-long study for gifted and talented third-graders on how to use creative thinking to solve problems. Hummel's pupils have tried packaging eggs so the eggs could survive a drop fromthe top of a fire company ladder truck, studied famous inventors andwill make a trip to the U.S. Patent Office later this year.

The teacher would like to see the idea extended to other classes. "Not just gifted and talented students can do this, it's something any class can do," she said.