When a bleary-eyed Alison Mueller used to get ready for bed at night, she'd brush her teeth but skip the floss.
Sure, her dentist wanted her to take care of her pearly whites, but who has the energy?
Then an idea struck the 11-year-old. "A lot of people don't floss their teeth," said Alison, a fifth-grader from St. Louis. "If people have a way that's quicker and easier, they might do it more."
Inspired, Alison got busy on her first invention: the Teeth Flosser. She thread dental floss through a plastic mouth guard, leaving spaces for her teeth. Now all she has to do is put the guard in her mouth and move it up and down for a time-saving floss.
When you hear the word "invention," you probably think about stuff that has changed life on planet Earth as we know it: the light bulb, the computer chip, the zipper that holds up your jeans.
But essentially, an invention is just a clever solution to an everyday problem.
Natalie Jarold of Parma, Ohio, was 11 when she decided to put an end to all those gravy stains that ruined her aunt's tablecloths during Thanksgiving meals. So she invented the No Drip Dip Spoon, which has a larger spoon underneath a smaller one to catch any spills.
Eight-year-old Johnny Badlyski of Santa Ana, Calif., invented the Rain Watchdog, which turns off lawn sprinklers when it starts to rain. Adam Koosmann, 12, from Plymouth, Minn., came up with the Handy Hammer, which stores nails inside the handle.
"It doesn't have to be complicated; it doesn't have to fly to the moon; it just has to be a good idea," said Nick Frankovits. He is the executive director of the National Gallery of America's Young Inventors in Akron, Ohio.
Each year, the gallery inducts six inventors in grades K-12 into its Hall of Fame. To be considered for the Hall of Fame, you must lTC first win a national invention contest, as the kids we've mentioned did.
One hall-of-famer, Alexia Abernathy, 11, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, invented the Oops! Proof No-Spill Feeding Bowl for babies. The idea was so great she decided to get a patent from the U.S. Patent Office. And even cooler, a company that makes products for little kids now sells Alexia's bowl nationwide.
1997 Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune
Pub Date: 6/04/98