Troutville Elementary convention brings out ‘inventor’ in 4th graders


Josh Crigger thinks his invention, the Spider Cup, will help folks
keep from spilling their drinks.
Justice Race-Waller was offering samples of her invention, The
Floide Angel Cake.
Maddie Whitacre shows off her Sweat Set project during
Troutville Elementary’s fourth grade Invention Convention last
week. Photos by Ed McCoy

Brennan Wright sits at the table corner with a hand-written three-panel display board standing on the table and a small life jacket lying in front of him.

“Dog Xcelerator” is the device he came up with for this spring’s Invention Convention at Troutville Elementary School.

Wright’s classmates in Jeff Hollandsworth’s and Brandy Rogers’ fourth grade classes are seated in a horseshoe of tables in the school cafeteria where each has an invention they pitch to visitors– ala television’s Shark Tank where inventors and entrepreneurs try to convince investors to financially back their ideas..

It’s the last Wednesday morning before school let out for the summer, and none of the students seem reticent about pitching their inventions to other students, teachers, parents and visitors.

The pitch is part of the process, Hollandsworth explains.

He’s been holding Invention Conventions for 20 years where fourth graders come up with ideas for an invention, develop plans– perhaps a prototype– research costs and selling prices, consider marketing ideas and even do some of the paperwork necessary to register an invention.

The morning event is the culmination of all the work the students have done and provides what Hollandsworth calls a “real world application.”

The students’ ideas come from a “bug list” the students create– a list of things that bug them. From the list, they are challenged to find a remedy, an invention to help solve a problem.

Brennan Wright’s 2-year old St. Bernard Jax is the catalyst for his invention.

Jax gets hot, and Dog Xcelerator is a vest that could be used to cool or heat a pet, to help maintain a healthy temperature.

In an explanation on his display board, Wright wrote, “He gets hot very fast and breathes hard. We have to watch him and make sure he always stays cool.”

Wright thought of a temperature-contolled blanket first, but dogs don’t stay under blankets. Thus, the vest, which would have the capabilities to cool and heat, It would use a rechargeable battery, heating and cooling elements, have adjustable fans that are easy to connect, and would be water resistant.

The clip buckles on the life jacket he uses as a prototype are marked with heat and cool to show how the Dog Xcelerator would be turned on.

The name Xcelerator? That’s what’s on the life jacket. Wright added Dog, and Jax’s name.

Just down the table, Maddie Whitacre is quick to start selling her invention, The Sweat Set. It’s designed to keep people cool with a headband and wristband that hold ice and also absorb sweat.

She sees the combination as a way for athletes, from 5 years and up, to keep cool.

She made the prototypes with her SS brand logos on each.

Wet, wrinkled feet bug Bryce Branscom. To solve that problem, he has developed WATASOX, rubber-coated socks “To Keep Your Feet Dry, Smooth And Fungus-Free.”

He used a spray-on liquid rubber to make the prototype, and his marketing poster helps sell it. A photograph of a pair of wet, wrinkled feet is corralled by pictures of where WATASOX could be worn to keep your feet dry.

The selling price, $8. The cost to make them, $3.

His aren’t the only socks, one student developed Puff Socks, then there are Flipper Jets, Zipper Fidget Spinner App, EZ Organizer, Word Searches, The To Go Bed, Fun Bike, Animal Freshener (who wouldn’t want one of those?) the Hand Bed Maker, Sand Off, and many others.

Carter Vassar’s idea for a laundry basket that fits in the washing machine and is then moved to the dryer was an idea that came from helping his grandmother. His idea makes it easier to move those clothes.

Justice Race-Waller’s The Floide Angle Cake helps keep your teeth white while eating a cupcake or piece of cake. The icing is pink bubblegum-flavored toothpaste— all edible.

The idea came to her when her mother told her to brush her teeth after she ate. It got her to thinking that night, “What if there was a cupcake that you can brush your teeth with?”

Her slogan, “Yellow Teeth No More with the Floide Cake!” and she had mini-cupcake samples for visitors.

Josh Crigger’s Spider Cup has applications that would suit him perfectly. “I always spill my cup,” he says when asked about the reason for the invention.

The legs on the cup– his prototype is a Solo cup with popsicle stick legs and little lights– keep it from being knocked over, and the lights make it so you can see it in the dark.

Aidan Mitchell loves basketball, but he feels height challenged as a fourth grader. His Super Shoes might cure that problem by providing the springs that would help a user jump higher.

Cameron Bailey developed the Sun Blocker because of his homework. The blinds on the window where he does homework still lets the sun bug him when he’s doing his homework. The Sun Blocker would cure that. It would fit over the blinds and window, and as a bonus provide added security for the home.

And Maisy Cook’s Shower Poo would solve a problem in the shower by providing a holder/dispenser for soap and shampoo. No more dropping the bottle on your toes.

Hollandsworth says many of the students have faith in their inventions. “A lot of them think and are led to believe ‘I could be the one.’”

And why not? Some will get reviewed by a couple of companies that provide paperwork assistance for registering their inventions.

— Ed McCoy


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