The 6.8-magnitude earthquake that shook 11-year-old Kelly Allen's house made a mess of the kitchen, with shattered dishes and glasses littering the floor.
But a week later, an idea "just popped into my head," she recalls.
Why not make a special container for dishes so that they won't bang against each other or fall out of cupboards?
Why not indeed. Kids are just as capable of coming up with marketable inventions as adults, according to Alan Tratner, president of Canoga Park-based Inventors Workshop International.
Tratner, an inventor himself, is leading a workshop for budding young inventors April 23 at Moorpark Community Center. It's for kids 5 and older and runs from 10 a.m. to noon. The cost is $15.
In the session, kids (and parents and teachers too) will learn how to take their ideas and turn them into real inventions, Tratner said. As a group, the class will form a hypothetical company and brainstorm ideas.
It's not so far-fetched. Tratner probably will tell the group about some successful young inventors, such as Joshua White, who, at 8, devised a board game involving dinosaurs. Called "Dinomite," the game is being sold in toy stores around the world, and the Washington state youth is raking in the profits.
And then there is Kelly Allen. Earlier this year, Tratner spoke at her Chatsworth school about inventions. Kelly talked to him about her earthquake idea, which she called "Safe Attack."
One thing led to another, and two weeks ago Kelly did a taped interview about her gizmo for "Good Morning America." (It was scheduled to air this week.)
"This is hot stuff--kids inventing and being encouraged," Tratner said. Too often there is never any follow-through on kids' ideas, Tratner said.
Not with Kelly. She constructed a prototype of "Safe Attack" using odds and ends around the house. She designed it to be adjustable, with flaps and partitions, so that it would fit cupboards of all sizes. Her father, a machinist, helped. The final product, she surmises, would be made from molded rubber.
"I plan to patent it," she said. She thinks the idea will sell. Flashlights and other disaster supplies were selling briskly after the earthquake, she said.
She has even given "Safe Attack" a real-life test. The night before she appeared in Los Angeles for the television taping, she put the device on the kitchen counter and filled it with dishes. That night an aftershock rattled the house, but the dishes were OK.
Brainstorming ideas is nothing new for Kelly, a sixth-grader who wants to become a doctor. "My mom says I have an imaginative mind," she said. "I like to sit in my room and make things up."
"Kids have a lot of good ideas," Tratner said. He should know. When he was 12, he designed a futuristic car that caught the attention of General Motors.
His organization, formerly based in Camarillo, is 23 years old and has 23,000 members who can get help with designing, patenting, building and marketing their ideas. The group's youth division, for kids under 16, has about 100 members. A kids' membership costs $35 a year.
What's new at the Santa Barbara Zoo? The new caracal exhibit. So you don't know what a caracal is? (It's a small cat, a close relative of the lynx and bobcat, with long, tufted, pointed ears.)
The zoo is also putting out a call for teen-agers who want to become counselors in-training for the zoo's summer camp for young children. Would-be counselors should be attending grades 7 through 12 next fall.
For information, call the zoo, 962-5339.
* WHAT: Inventors workshop for kids, sponsored by city of Moorpark's Community Services Department.
* WHEN: Saturday, April 23, 10 a.m. to noon.
* WHERE: Moorpark Community Center, 799 Moorpark Ave., Moorpark.
* COST: $15 (includes $5 lab fee).
* FYI: Preregistration required. Call 529-6864 for information. For information about Inventors Workshop International, call (818) 340-4268.