With the help of her “What You Say” machine, Adi Mendoza, 10, would be able to understand her 2-year-old brother’s gibberish and her dog’s yips and barks.
The fifth-grade inventor demonstrated her prototype — a long tube attached to a cardboard box — Wednesday at Kids Unlimited Academy’s second annual Invention Convention.
“You just have the animal or child speak into the tube, and it’s processed and comes out in English,” Adi explained matter-of-factly.
“I have a little baby brother who talks to me, but I don’t understand him, and it stresses me out,” she said.
For the Invention Convention, third- and fourth-graders were tasked with designing their own rain gauges and anemometers, while the fifth-graders were asked to develop an invention that would solve a problem in the world.
“Some immediately knew what they wanted to do, and others took two weeks just to come up with the idea,” said David Tourzan, the school’s science director.
During the convention, students had to pitch their inventions to judges, community members and fellow students as if they were on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” in which aspiring entrepreneurs present their products to investors.
The sharks — or judges, in this case — were local meteorologist Adam Colpak, the charter school's principal, Lynn Eccleston, and Colleen Cavanaugh, a graduate student studying environmental education at Southern Oregon University.
“(The students) are not seeking investments,” Tourzan said. “They are more just trying to sell it to you like a product. So, as part of their presentation, they have to market it to you.”
Rebecca Wheeler, 10, and Jessica Cruz, 11, collaborated on the WAR (Water Animal Rescue) Drone, which detects distressed fish, trapped by soda cans, plastic bags and other garbage, and rescues them.
“It would not only help the fish out but throw away the trash, too,” said Rebecca.
“It’s a win-win for the fishies and us,” chimed in Jessica. “If fish eat the garbage and then we eat the fish, we can get all these diseases.”
Connor Wernecke, 11, invented No Expiration, a machine that turns food into seasonings that never expire.
He came up with the idea after watching his mom throw away a bunch of moldy, spoiled food. Plus, he said he liked the idea of sprinkling powdered cherry on top of an ice cream sundae.
Nyreyda Cortes’ Food Changer replaces the ingredients in junk food with healthful ingredients while maintaining the original flavor.
Katherine Mejia’s Folding Dryer attaches to a washing machine and not only dries clothes but also folds, separates and steams clothes and warms bath towels.
Chloe Bradley combined coconut oil with Pixy Stix, Jell-O and Grape Crush soda to create Candy Lip Gloss. Zane Wheeler’s Paper Omatik is a printer that also erases paper, thus saving trees and animal habitats.
The Crank, by Trystin Vannatta, is a contraption for manually charging a device in an emergency or, in his experience, a long road trip.
Meanwhile, Zach Dwyer and Hailey Dolmage simplified household chores. Nighty Tidy by Zach is a pair of slippers attached to sponges, and Doggie’s Duty by Hailey is a dog harness retrofitted with scrub brushes and a dog bone for bait.
Hailey said she tested the harness on a friend’s dog, who successfully cleaned up a sticky mess on the floor.
Most of the students’ prototypes — built with cardboard, tape, wrapping paper, buttons, beads, straws and nonrecyclable plastics — are not functional but still demonstrate creativity and ingenuity, Tourzan said.
“It’s changing the way they see the world, and that’s what’s most important to me,” he said. “Some of them do work. The Hacky Sack on a string is perfectly functional, but the free energy generator that runs off your home septic system is still a work in progress.”