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Kids Brainstorm Inventions Under New Program

March 8, 1988

MAITLAND, Fla. (AP) _ Ten-year-old Kristin Segal wanted to solve a universal problem, so she decided to make the glue on stamps taste better by rubbing a banana across the back.

Robbie Cadle, 10, hates carrying out the garbage so much that he has set out a project for himself: motorized garbage cans that he can drive out to the street and back.

Seth Swanson, 11, wants to make sure he can locate his dog at night, and he is designing a nighttime dog collar with a light on it.

These and other ideas were developed by the fifth-graders at Dommerich Elementary School as part of the Invent America program, which seeks to boost the level of creativity and innovation in this country.

It may not be possible to teach creativity, but the program believes that it can certainly be nurtured in schools. The privately funded U.S. Patent Model Foundation in Washington began Invent America a little more than a year ago as part of an effort to boost the share of inventions patented in this country by Americans.

The proportion of patents issued by the U.S. Patent Office to Americans has dropped from 89 percent in 1966 to 53 percent in 1987. The remainder go to foreign-born inventors who want to protect their creations in this country.

The Invent America class is taught at Dommerich one day a week to each of five classes of gifted students in different grades by Gil Rowe.

He came here from Ocoee Elementary School, where he started the program and had great success. Ocoee won four of Invent America’s nine state awards last year, the most of any school in the country.

″We’ve just kind of forgotten to teach the children the old American ingenuity,″ says Rowe, 44.

Eleven-year-old Seth is certain that the creativity class works.

″Like when you grow up, if you become a scientist, you’ll be a little bit better at it than someone who never had this before,″ he said.

Besides opening up the innovative process, Rowe says, the program enhances students’ self-esteem. One Ocoee second-grader who was emotionally and mentally disturbed and had no friends invented a device that earned him his classmates’ admiration.

″Suddenly he became a famous inventor. He just became a totally different individual,″ Rowe said.

Only two Orange County schools took part in the program last year, but two dozen are involved this year, as are others around the state.

Four million pupils in kindergarten through eighth grade participated nationwide in 1987 - about 13 percent of all students in those grades, the foundation reported.

Other inventions have ranged from a self-cleaning bathtub to salt dyed red so that people can know how much they use.

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