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THOUSAND OAKS : Students Put Inventions to the Test

Thousand Oaks fifth-grader Brad Martin’s solution to the age-old problem of losing one sock in the wash garnered him a first-place prize Tuesday in an invention contest at Weathersfield Elementary School.

He created a sock holder called “Sock-o” by cutting an X-shaped slit in the top of a plastic milk container lid. Sock-o, which keeps socks together while they are being washed, won first place in the household gadgets category of the Invent America contest.

“I have to do my own laundry and I just had trouble sorting out my socks,” Brad, 11, said of his inspiration.

The 85 fifth-grade students who participated built everything from a rack used to dry reusable plastic bags to the “Icky Sticky Hand Saver,” a shield that slides up an ice cream cone to protect hands from drips.

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“It empowers them to know they can use their imagination and their knowledge to be problem solvers,” said teacher Deanna Hackman.

Jenifer Straining, 10, won the overall award for her sophisticated warning device for child car-seat restraints. When the child’s belt was unhooked, a red light flashed.

“I think I’m going to patent this invention when I can,” Jenifer said.

A personal favorite of judge Arnie Rudman, a Thousand Oaks dentist, was a battery-powered electric pizza cutter.

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“You could hold the cutter in one hand and move the pizza,” quipped judge Tim Hengst, a medical illustrator from Thousand Oaks.

But for sheer attention-grabbing, Bobby West took the prize. When he dropped a marble down a metal tube, it set off a mouse trap which released a string holding a heavy dumbbell suspended over large cubes of ice.

Every “wham” of the falling weight drew curious onlookers and sent ice chunks spraying. Needless to say, Bobby’s entry scored better for creativity than practicality.

“Can it do the same for walnuts?” Rudman asked.

The winners in six categories will compete in a national competition this July, where nine winners will be selected from among hundreds of entrants, Hackman said.

Schools across the nation voluntarily compete in the contest, sponsored by the nonprofit U.S. Patent Model Foundation and the Kiwanis Club.


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