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African-Americans' inventions on display at center HOWARD COUNTY DIVERSIONS


What do ice cream, a type of guitar, the refrigeration truck and a lemon squeezer have in common?

Their inventors were African-Americans.

These items and around 50 more are on display for the next three days in Columbia at the Howard County Center for African-American Culture.

"People were so surprised to hear that the base of ice cream, lamps and lanterns, refrigeration for trucks, the ladders on a fire truck, were all invented by African-Americans," said Wylene Burch, founder and director of the center.

Established in 1987, the center opened in January at 20 Corporate Center in Town Center, near the American Cafe.

Ms. Burch, a former Prince George's County schoolteacher, said this weekend's display also will include present-day inventors.

Anika Thompson of Columbia and Leonard Ross of Baltimore will participate at this evening's reception.

Ms. Thompson has designed and is marketing a data base program that organizes student records, work group activities and events. The program has been accepted by schools involved with the Maryland Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement Program, a precollege program for minority and female students interested in math and science fields.

Mr. Ross, a Baltimore businessman, is inventor of the Ross Automatic Tarp Enclosure, a labor-saving device that enables truck drivers to cover their cargo quickly.

He created the contraption in 1976, and it was patented in 1982.

The only advice he gives to potential inventors may sound a little unusual.

"Put it on paper. Get it notarized. Get it certified. Have it mailed to yourself, so you have documentation," he said. "If someone else invents it, you had it yesterday."

Saturday afternoon will feature a children's program with two young inventors, Maurice Scales of Suitland and Jeffrey Whye of Columbia.

Maurice, a middle school student, will display his invention, a modified doorstop, that he created while in the third grade.

Jeffrey, who is entering Mount St. Joseph's High School as a freshman next month, invented the "fold-o-matic," which folds clothing for storage in drawers or luggage.

Two years ago, while a student at Harper's Choice Middle School, he created "De'm Bones," a board game that teaches anatomy.

The 15-year-old plans to attend Tuskegee University in Alabama and study nuclear physics or aeronautics.

"I like taking things apart, like electronic stuff," he said.

Next month, the center will turn its attention to profile black writers, especially Maryland writers.

The Howard County Center of African-American Culture at 10 Corporate Center in Town Center will present its weekend showcase on African-American inventors with a reception from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. today and the Children's Hour from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. tomorrow.

All items will be on display for the reception, from noon to 5 p.m. tomorrow and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 997-3685.

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