Invention Convention held at Penn State New Kensington
Kain Toy sounded like a budding Billy Mays on Saturday as he extolled the virtues of E-Z Paste.
“You can’t live without this,” Toy said, doing his best imitation of the late, legendary TV commercial spokesman as he huckstered the toothbrush with the built-in toothpaste supply.
Kain, 12, and his partner, Kyler Watterson, 12, both of Harrison, cooked up the device for the first Invention Convention at Penn State New Kensington. The event was sponsored by the Allegheny Valley Chamber of Commerce and Penn State, whose Electro-Optics Center at the Northpointe Industrial Park in Slate Lick provided the chamber with a $1,000 grant for the competition.
Nine teams of seventh-graders submitted inventions — eight from Highlands Middle School and the other from Springdale Junior High.
“This is our first year and we thought we’d run with what we get and then build on it next year,” said Chamber President Mary Bowlin.
“I’m just hoping one of these guys comes up with the next million-dollar idea,” said Chris Resek, Highlands Middle School science teacher. “I told them I want to retire soon.”
There was no shortage of ideas exhibited. The entries ran the gamut from belts to hold sports, office and beauty accessories — that was Springdale’s entry — to the Gumholder, small plastic containers that clip on to the edge of a plate to hold a person’s chewing gum while eating, to the Contact Buddy, a travel container for contact lens users, complete with collapsible mirror.
Judges Ben Campbell, an engineer at the Electro-Optics Center and Paul Hollinger, engineering manager for Accutronic USA in the RIDC Park in O’Hara, listened to each team’s presentation, then questioned the members.
They asked the E-Z Paste creators how they put their invention together. Toy and Watterson said they cut the handle off a toothbrush, drilled a hole in it to the bristles and then attached a lipstick-type container handle to hold the toothpaste. Twisting the bottom then supplies the brush with toothpaste.
“That’s a good combination of two technologies,” Campbell said.
Direct competition from the Squeezy Brush was just a few tables away. Hannah Young, 12, of Brackenridge and Harrison residents Sarah Holsing, 12, Kathryn Beck, 12, and Joshua Nulph, 13, billed their invention as a throwaway travel toothbrush. It also featured a sawed-off toothbrush with the handle replaced by clear plastic tube filled with toothpaste. Instead of turning the handle, Squeezy Brush users feed toothpaste to the bristles via a drilled hole by squeezing the toothpaste reservoir. It also had the benefit of a strong presentation by Nulph, another Billy Mays’ aficionado.
As for E-Z Paste, Nulph said, “It doesn’t look like it holds as much toothpaste, but it is a good idea.”
Watterson acknowledged the strong Squeezy Brush presentation, saying “Yeah, but ours is refillable.”
“So we have the edge,” Toy added.
In the end, they did.
E-Z Paste took first prize with each of its inventors awarded $100 checks. Second place and $50 checks went to the Contact Buddy devised by Cole Bradley and Jacob Hughes, while the Pittsburgh-izer, a locker organizer with Terrible Towel motif, created by Abby Kuchek and Deanna Webb won third place and $25 checks.
“You guys did a fantastic job,” Hollinger told the teams. “This was a very hard decision. You guys are all winners.”
Resek agreed. “I’m proud of them because for them, this was completely above and beyond. I didn’t give out extra points for this,” he said. “And, it turned out to be a very good learning experience for them.”