A Lesson In Joy And Sorrow Of Inventing

Posted: May 18, 1986

Like many great inventions, it began with a small, simple problem.

It seemed that Steven Hrize just couldn't keep his mittens and gloves together - an easy feat for an 8-year-old, and one that didn't make mom very happy.

"My mom would yell at me and I was always late for school, so I came up with this," Steven said, gesturing to the "glove catcher," an invention designed to enable him to hang on to his mittens.

The invention is a handy rack of colorful clothespins that are attached to freshly varnished boards, which dangle by chains.

Steven's creation won first prize at the New Jersey Mini-Invention Innovation Team Contest earlier this month and earned him a berth in the state finals of the contest, which will take place tomorrow at Rutgers University's Douglass College campus in New Brunswick.

Steven is one of eight youngsters from the New Albany and Rush Elementary Schools in Cinnaminson who competed in the regional contest for the first time this year.

They learned more than just the skills of inventing and gained more than just the spark of inspiration; the youngsters also learned about the world of marketing.

"Everybody wants one. They need it," Steven confided proudly. "I'm taking orders."

And why not? The rack holds mittens, gloves, hats and scarves. "But no wet bathing suits," Steven said. "That may put spots on the wood."

Necessity is the mother of invention, he learned. So did Amy Seiden, who got tired of retrieving her dad's golf ball when he practiced his putting at home.

"Every time he hit the ball, he asked me to go get it," said Amy, who also will compete tomorrow. "So I decided to make something to help my dad."

What resulted for the 9-year-old was the "Exec-U-Putt." It is a collapsible golf putter. The ball is attached to the club with a string and can be reeled back by using a fishing reel on the shaft of the club.

"My dad drilled the holes" in the ball for the string, she said, ''because I'm not allowed to use a drill."

The youngsters who competed at the regional contest are pupils of Elaine Mendelow, who directs the school system's program for gifted children. She said that the contest was an exercise in problem-solving and that the children who were not as fortunate as Amy and Steven learned about losing and the frustrations real inventors sometimes faced.

"We talked about how inventors are often not recognized in their lifetime," Mendelow said.

Daniel Robinson was one young inventor who had to learn the disappointment of defeat. His "Little Wire That Could" did not win at the regional contest. The wire doubled the range of his walkie-talkie set.

"I learned about sound waves and about technology," he said. "I also learned about sportsmanship."

But that one setback has not deterred him from his inventing. Though no light bulbs are popping over his head, Daniel vowed to be back next year.

In addition to everything else they have learned, the young inventors are

finding out that it is a good idea to keep their inventions secret.

"I think I know what I'll do next year," Amy said. "But I don't want it in the newspaper."

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