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Release: April 15, 1999

Invent, Iowa! State Invention Convention showcases 300 student inventions

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Over 300 Iowa students will exhibit the best student inventions from around the state at the annual Invent, Iowa! State Invention Convention, to be held April 24 at the Iowa State University Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.

The event is sponsored by the Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development at the University of Iowa, and by the Colleges of Engineering at the UI and Iowa State University.

The public is invited to view these outstanding inventions and talk with the inventors from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Hilton Coliseum.

The Invention Convention highlights the efforts of 35,000 elementary and junior-high school students across Iowa who learned about inventions and creativity though the Invent, Iowa! program during the 1998-99 school year. To reach the state event, inventions from fourth- through eighth-graders are selected at local and regional sponsored by area education agencies. High school students may also submit inventions at the state level.

The experience culminated with the students' inventions, many of which reflected their interests in solving problems, making life easier or just having more fun.

Gardens damaged in last summer's storms provided inspiration for Amanda Gummert and Gretchen Falk from Green Mountain-Garwin Elementary School in Marshalltown. The fourth-graders built a wire and wood frame rain shade that can be put over plants to keep them from being pelted during heavy rains.

Fifth-grader Clayton Jacobs of Jefferson Elementary in Pella had a different situation. Jacobs, who is visually impaired, gave his sister a $10 bill after she asked to borrow $1. To prevent this happening again, Clayton used a device to put slight indentations in the bills without damaging them.

But Jeremy and Justin Mescher's invention may be the kind found in the Sharper Image catalog. The twins, who attend eighth grade at Drexler Middle School in Dyersville, made an automatic toilet paper unroller, which dispenses just the right amount of toilet paper at the touch of a button.

According to the Invent, Iowa! rules, inventions must be a completely new product or a new application of an existing product, and must be the original work of the students. The young inventors compile a journal of their work and build a backdrop describing the invention. Invent, Iowa! has helped teachers present the inventive process as a part of the regular kindergarten through eighth-grade curriculum for over 10 years, according to Laurie Croft, Invent, Iowa! coordinator.

Evaluation of the inventions is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the convention, when inventors describe it to evaluators, who include engineering faculty and students from the UI and Iowa State, plus entrepreneurs and business leaders from across Iowa. All participants will receive certificates and the top inventors will receive savings bonds.

The Invention Convention also includes several educational activities for the entire family, including computer lab simulations on robot programming throughout the day. A playtime area for children ages 4 to 7 will be open from 9 to 11 a.m. at the West Tunnel. Iowa State campus tours will be given at 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Dr. Susan Assouline, associate director of the Belin-Blank Center, will present "Parenting for Creativity," for parents of elementary school students from 11 a.m. in the Coliseum's Gold Room. "Pre-College Planning," led Monica Bruning, coordinator for outreach and recruitment in the Iowa State Engineering Department, at 11:45 a.m. in the Coliseum's Gold Room, is for parents of middle school and high school students.

All activities and the event are free. For more information about the convention or the Invent, Iowa! program, contact Croft at the UI Belin-Blank Center, (800) 228-1625. Additional information about Invent Iowa! is at