AP NEWS

Cy-Fair teen invents versatile magnetic device

May 5, 2019

Three years ago, Owen Cowan spilled fish hooks all over his rug. Without an easier way to pick them up other than grabbing them individually, he improvised with a shell and a small magnet, finding that he could remove the magnet to drop all the hooks from the shell at once.

Owen Cowan and his mother Christine Cowan, Cy-Fair residents, knew there was a way to improve upon his idea, so he did. Owen Cowan said the second iteration of MagnaFingers took him 10 minutes to make.

“I glued a piece of a paper plate to some Popsicle sticks and a clothespin and stuck the magnet on one of them,” Owen Cowan said.

Three years later, the shell and magnet had gone through several evolutions to become MagnaFingers, a 3D-printed invention used for picking up large groups of small metallic items with a patent under Owen Cowan’s name and a storefront where they can be purchased.

MagnaFingers has an arm with an attached magnet. The device resembles a clothes pin. When closed, the magnet picks up small items and when opened by pressing down, all items are released.

Owen Cowan, now 16, continued to improve upon the invention to produce the latest version, which is available for purchase on the MagnaFingers website.

The device had come a long way from its prototypes made with popsicles, toothpicks, clothespins and pieces of a binder. Impressed by her son’s invention, Christine Cowan began searching the internet and stores for similar devices, eventually realizing that nothing like MagnaFingers was on the market. The next step was to put Owen Cowan’s name on the invention with a patent.

“I started researching how to do a patent search and I couldn’t find a patent that was quite like this,” Christine Cowan said. “I thought this was amazing. It’s so useful and it’s easy and it’s fun to use. I used it at my desk and I thought it was great, his grandmas thought it was great.”

Christine Cowan joined the Houston Inventors Association, found an attorney and filed the patent for MagnaFingers, Owen Cowan received the patent in July 2018 at the age of 15 under his name. With official ownership of his invention, Owen Cowan and his mother began promoting the devices, showing it most recently at the Cypress Springs FFA Booster Club Mother’s Day Market.

“It doesn’t seem like anything anyone had ever come up with before, so we wanted to try to get it known and I made a few of them and gave them to my grandparents and family” Owen Cowan said. “We tried to make them to where we could mass produce them or just make them so they would be nicer and more durable.”

MagnaFingers has received positive feedback from users, Owen Cowan said. Fishing groups, sewing groups and office workers praise its many uses, he said. Christine Cowan said she has had friends use them outside to pick up small pieces of metal in their yard.

Owen Cowen plans to continue improving MagnaFingers. Currently, the Cowans print each MagnaFingers in their home using PLA filament, but are looking for ways to mass produce the device. One MagnaFingers takes three hours to print, Christine Cowan said.

“I had to find the right magnet supplier, the right place to get clothespins, someone who could do 3D CAD design for a small fry,” Christine Cowan said. “I’ve recently learned about resources to have more made if we need to do that if we got more demand. I’ve learned about a vendor who has a large number of 3D printers so they can print a lot at once.”

Owen and Christine Cowen are looking to market and expand MagnaFingers with promotional efforts, such as videos. For more information about MagnaFingers, visit the vendor website.