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What Do a Dog and a Pot Holder Have in Common?


Well, in the mind of a fifth grader they’re the makings of a great new invention. This was just one of the dozens of ideas on display at Bristol’s Mt. View School as part of the annual statewide Invention Convention funded in part by Liberty Bank Foundation.

So before we go any further, here’s the answer to the burning question: a dog in a harness equipped with a dangling potholder can automatically sweep up the fur it sheds. Genius!

As part of the program, all Bristol fifth graders were challenged to come up with an invention that solves a specific problem. The chance to think creatively and build an invention was all it took to spawn a roomful of imaginative prototypes. Betcha you haven’t thought of any of these:

  • A tee-shirt with detachable long sleeves – a great way to cool off fast (although the inventor says that reattaching the sleeves is a bit tricky).
  • A snow blower attachment that drops salt on the pavement just cleared.
  • A jacket with a special downward facing hood that keeps students’ backpacks dry on rainy days.
  • A kitchen utility belt that allows cooks to always have a spatula, spoon, and spices handy.
  • A working fish aquarium with a screen on top for growing herbs hydroponically. (No word on harvestability yet, because as the inventor notes, “Then there would be none left.”)
  • A handy way to transport dog poo while on a long walk.
  • A litter box that the family guinea pig can’t tip over. (Good news! It works perfectly.)

School staff advise that kids needed very little prompting to come up with an idea. There was a small amount of class work to make sure kids could clearly write about the problem they addressed and how their invention works. But, 90 percent of the work happened at home.

Some kids collaborated with family members to think through and build their inventions. In other cases kids’ ideas were triggered by a need of a family member (or the inventor’s need to keep pesky siblings at bay).

Students’ inventions have already gone through one round of judging based on such criteria as originality, quality, effectiveness, practicality, and society’s need for the invention. The best of the best will advance to the state competition and then on to the nationals in Ohio.

Kudos to all the students for ingenious solutions to life’s problems. Especially the dog fur. That’s BIG!

About the CT Invention Convention: It has been around for 34 years helping students learn about invention, entrepreneurism, and engineering. Over 300,000 students have participated. Many have gone on to earn patents, begin careers in engineering or science, and to apply their problem-solving skills to all aspects of life.