The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release

Release: April 24, 2003

Iowa State To Host Invent Iowa Convention April 26

What do you do if you've outgrown your favorite pants and you don't want to buy a new pair? Or a bad back is preventing you from properly donning your underwear? Or, despite your mother's constant admonitions, you keep forgetting to flush and wash after using the bathroom?

These are the thoughts that have plagued some of Iowa's brightest young minds in the months leading up to this weekend's 16th Annual Invent Iowa convention at Iowa State University's Hilton Coliseum in Ames. The event is sponsored by the University of Iowa College of Education's Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development and the UI and ISU Colleges of Engineering, alternating between the two campuses each year.

This year's contest event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, April 26 and will bring together 357 inventors and co-inventors of 282 inventions representing 152 Iowa cities and towns. The convention, a culmination of local competitions, is open to students in grades three to 12. Public viewing time is from 12:30 to 2 p.m.

"The resourcefulness and creativity of these young inventors always amazes me," said Clar M. Baldus, Ph.D., state coordinator of Invent Iowa, as well as administrator of the Belin-Blank Center's Rural Schools Programs and Inventiveness Programs. "You just never know where these students' inventiveness will lead them in later life. In fact, some of the ISU engineering students participating as evaluators this year were once Invent Iowa kids themselves."

Invent Iowa encourages students to develop inventions or innovations that are both unique and useful. And what could be more useful than, say, Velcro underwear?

Kelley Benson and Brittany Weaver, seventh-graders at Garner-Hayfield School and co-inventors of Velcro underwear, recognized that some people -- particularly those with bad backs, a broken leg or, in the words of their submission application, "just an uncontrollable bladder" -- may find it difficult to balance on one leg while pulling on their undergarments. So they invented underwear that can be strapped on for convenience.

Allison Arp, a sixth-grader at West Branch Middle School, empathized with every parent's struggle to keep their growing kids clothed. Her invention, Extend-A-Pant, lets the pants grow with the child through the use of an extendable pant cuff.

Then there's Elephant Flush. Invented by Jake Gentile, a fourth-grader at St. Albert's in Council Bluffs, the gadget sounds an alert whenever someone sits on the toilet, guaranteeing that you'll have a "memory like an elephant" when it comes to remembering your hygiene obligations when using the little boy's or little girl's room.

Invent Iowa is open to all Iowa students. Each year more than 30,000 students participate in Invent Iowa activities. For more information contact Clar M. Baldus, 210 Lindquist Center, University of Iowa, at (800) 336-6463, or at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: George McCrory, 319-384-0012, Program: Clar M. Baldus, (800) 336-6463, Writers: Stephen Pradarelli and Josh Rosenthal.

MEDIA INFORMATION: Media interested in videotaping or otherwise covering Invent Iowa are strongly encouraged to be there during the public viewing time Saturday, which is 12:30 to 2 p.m. Judges will be assessing inventions during the other times and organizers ask that neither they nor the students be disturbed.