ISU, UI partner to feature student innovation at Invention Convention April 16

IOWA CITY - Have you ever spilled a drink while sitting in a rocking chair?

Fourth grader Jessica Elliot has, which is why she's invented "The Rocker Stopper." Elliot, from Blue Grass Elementary School, came up with the invention when she first noticed how difficult it was to keep her drink in a cup while sitting in a rocking chair.

Jessica DuVal, a Harlan native and another creative inventor, designed the "Eye Drop Assistant." DuVal, a seventh grader at Harlan Community Middle School, developed the model when she noticed her grandmother having trouble getting eye drops into her eye.

These are two of the many inventions that will be featured at the Invent Iowa 2011 State Scholarship Event from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 16, in Howe Hall on the Iowa State University (ISU) campus. Invent Iowa is one of the state's original Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs that aims to support educators in promoting the invention process.

Since 1999, the Invent Iowa program has been a part of the University of Iowa College of Education's Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. K-12 students representing 150 schools from grades K-12 will participate in the event. This year, a total of 400 students competed for awards and a spot at the state Engineering Scholarship event.

This is the 24th annual Invent Iowa competition, which alternates between the UI and ISU campuses each year. Students are asked to demonstrate solutions they feel will make life easier for themselves and others. Invent Iowa is sponsored by the Belin-Blank Center as well as the UI College of Engineering and ISU College of Engineering. Over the past two decades, over a half-million students have participated in Invent Iowa.

Students are encouraged to develop inventions that meet the requirements for a patent in the United States: they must be "new, useful and nonobvious." Students are also encouraged to keep journals that document their inventions' development from concept to completion and in some cases, do a market analysis to project the costs and consumer interest.

"The Invent Iowa process encourages students to find their own problems to solve through inventing something new," said Clar Baldus, Invent Iowa state coordinator and administrator for the Inventiveness Programs at the UI College of Education's Belin-Blank Center. "Invent Iowa honors and supports these highly inventive students for their innovative work. It is a natural fit with the Colleges of Engineering as some of these students are indeed aspiring engineers."

Some changes were made to the Invent Iowa submission process this year. In years past, inventors had to pass through a regional invention competition before moving on to the state event. This year, students did not need to pre-qualify to compete at the state level. However, schools across the state still encouraged local and regional conventions to help prepare students interested in submitting their inventions for the state event.

Inventors who place in the top 10 percent in their grade are given an honorable mention award and a $50 U.S. savings bond while the top three at each grade level are given a meritorious honor award and a $100 U.S. savings bond. Students with meritorious inventions then move on to the State Scholarship Event to compete for six $500 scholarships from the UI and ISU Colleges of Engineering. The $500 scholarships can be used when students apply to the College of Engineering at either university.

New this year are the Stanley Consultants Charitable Foundation scholarships, which provide $500 to five Invent Iowa students in sixth through 11th grade who earn honorable mention and state merit. These scholarships provide the opportunity for these students to attend a one-week summer STEM class at the Belin-Blank Center.

Invent Iowa students receive national attention as well. Over the past few years, producers for The Ellen DeGeneres Show have invited Invent Iowa inventors to be featured on a segment of the show. For more information about Invent Iowa, contact Baldus at 1-800-336-6463 or or visit

The Belin-Blank Center is part of the UI College of Education. For more information visit

EDITOR'S NOTE: Though the event is not open to the public, members of the media are welcome to attend. For directions to Howe Hall, visit Media interested in covering this event can contact Baldus in advance at 1-800-336-6563 or the day of the event at 319-551-5923. Best times for coverage are 12:30 to 3 p.m.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500