TAMPA - K-12 students in the Tampa Bay area are competing for a chance to be named top inventor and take home a $1,000 cash prize. Last year’s finalists invented a self-watering Christmas tree ornament, LED wallet and an electricity-generating houseplant.
The idea for the contest was the brainchild of 13-year-old Anna Hopen. Anna’s father, Anton Hopen, is a patent attorney.
“If a toy broke or an appliance didn’t work right, Anna would have a sketch of an improved product waiting for me when I got home from work,” said Hopen. “At some point we both realized what a great opportunity this would be to motivate kids towards science and technology.”
With help from the Museum of Science and Industry, University of South Florida and local school districts, this year’s contest expects hundreds of new inventions. Past finalists have commercialized their inventions, Hopen said.
Student contestants fill out an invention disclosure form that identifies a current problem with technology and hypothesizes a solution. Then, they make a sketch of their invention and explain how it works. Judging is based on creativity, persuasiveness, benefit to the public and marketability.
Initial submissions will be judged by the USF Chapter of the National Academy of Inventors, who was volunteered for the job by Academy Founder and USF Vice President of Research and Innovation Paul Sanberg. Academy members must be the inventor of at least one U.S. patent.
On Feb. 11, Thomas Edison’s birthday, the top ten finalists will present their invention and prototypes to a live panel of judges at USF. The top inventor will receive a $1,000 cash prize. The first runner up will receive a $500 cash prize. The second place runner up will receive $250 cash prize. In addition, each winner’s school will receive cash prizes to advance their science and engineering program.
All participants receive special awards including free admission to MOSI. The ten finalists receive other prizes, including annual family passes to MOSI.
About the Tampa Bay Young Inventor Competition
The deadline for submission of inventions is Jan. 25, 2013. The contest is open to all elementary, middle and high school students in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk, Manatee, Pasco, Hernando, Sarasota and Citrus Counties. Finalists will be selected Jan. 30.
Final presentation will take place the University of South Florida in Tampa at 6 p.m. on Feb. 11. Contest rules and applications are available at www.innovationexpress.org or through the school districts.