Got an Idea? Enter an Invention Contest!
I never had the intention of assuming the title “inventor.” It never really occurred to me that all the cool ideas that popped into my head might lead me to where I am. The stacks of craft items inside and the piles upon piles of wood outside seemed like a given at my house. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” and when I’ve got an idea, why not make it material? Anyone can be an inventor. The difference between inventors and everyone else, though, is that inventors follow through and believe in themselves.
A few years ago, I came upon a problem. I felt like doing my homework outside because it was a nice day, but once I got settled, I kept having to go back inside to get writing tools and such things. So I used that situation as an opportunity to solve a problem. What I thought up (and expanded over time) became the “Totally Desk.” It’s a portable desk with a flip-up lid that can hold a textbook, drawers on both sides, an automatic pencil sharpener, and attachable legs. It can all be closed up and carried like a suitcase.
So then, I entered my invention into the Staples Invention Quest Contest, where I made it through the first selection, then on to the semi-finals in MA, and then the finals in NY. That’s as far as I got, but $5,000 and other prizes is nothing to scoff at. I also learned a lot about the inventing world through the process. In the semi-finals, I was one of fourteen other kids from all over the country who came up with solutions to problems they discovered. All of us got to walk around to see the other inventions. The theme was “office inventions,” but each invention was so creatively different. Only five of us reached the finals, but along the way we all encouraged each other. We congratulated the winner and were happy for her and each other.
Problems are always opportunities. From problems come ideas, and from ideas can come inventions, but only those who can recognize this and follow through can become inventors. You don’t need shelves full of craft materials inside or piles of wood outside. All you need is imagination and determination.
— Jerrilee G., Kid Inventor
At 9, Jerrilee wanted to create a special birthday gift for her older sister who loved word games. She had an idea; she would combine the best elements of both word and card games in a new spelling game. With the help of her mother, Jerrilee brainstormed ideas and developed Speed Spell (now Swipe-it), a fast-paced game of spelling and vocabulary. In Speed Spell the players race to complete words from multiple letter groups building from the inside out. The more words you complete, or steal, the more points you earn. The more cards left in your hand when someone goes out, the more points you lose. The rules contain several versions, and it can be played cooperatively or competitively.