When we say “even a child can do it”, we don’t always realize just what a child can do.
All the people in this list all started their road to invention much younger than most of us could ever dream of. Younger people tend to be naturally imaginative and inquisitive, making them natural inventors. These 9 kid inventors drive home the point that anyone can make a difference.
If you need to patent or trademark your own inventions, visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office website or your country’s equivalent to get started!
1.) Wristies – Kathryn Gregory, aged 9
In 1994, ten year old Kathryn Gregory from Bedford, Massachusetts invented and trademarked Wristies
, the heavy duty fingerless gauntlets you probably didn’t realize weren’t invented before the 90s!
Kathyrn also became the youngest ever person to sell their products on QVC, a TV shopping show popular in the US. Wristies supply contracts have been signed by Federal Express, The Girl Scouts and McDonald’s.
2.) Earmuffs – Chester Greenwood, aged 15
Chester Greenwood invented the earmuff in 1873, at the age of 15. He thought of earmuffs while ice skating, and had his grandmother sew tufts of fur between wire loops. While there were ear protectors before Chester Greenwood invented his take, most were too bulky and inconvenient to use. After he patented an improved version of the earmuffs he developed with his grandmother, he manufactured them, creating jobs in his hometown of Farmington, Maine for 60 years!
Greenwood grew up to be a prolific inventor and had a number of patents to his name, including ones for an improved kettle, more durable garden tools, ads on matchboxes (an innovation we still often see today), and various practical machines.
3.) Popsicles – Frank Epperson, aged 11
One cold evening in 1905, 11-year-old native San Franciscan Frank Epperson left a mixture of powder flavored soda water with a stirring rod in it on his family’s front porch. It was cold enough that when he went back to it the next day, the soda water had frozen into the sweet snack we know and love today.
It took 17 years for Frank Epperson to bring his invention to the market, serving them up at a Fireman’s ball (ironically?) where they were a huge hit. A year after, he was selling different-flavored – and patented – “Epsicle Ice Pops”. He sold his patent after a year to the rival Popsicle corporation and the rest is history.
4.) Hands On Basketball – Chris Haas, aged 9
After watching his friends miss easy shots, 9-year old Chris Haas came up with the idea for a basketball that has hands painted on it to show the correct position for different kinds of shots at basketball. He actually lost at an invention contest at his school. But he was wise enough to get a patent. His invention can now be bought in sports shops all over the world.
5.) Maddie Bradshaw – Snap Caps, aged 10
Maddie Bradshaw thought of the now ubiquitous Snap Caps after she couldn’t find fun magnets to decorate her locker with. After an uncle gave her a bunch of bottle caps, Maddie had the idea to turn the caps and the magnets she had into fun pendants with easily switchable designs.
Maddie created 50 Snap Cap prototypes and had them sold at a local store, where they were sold out in a few hours. She’s now a millionaire and still designs jewelry for teens.
6.) Cellphone Electrocardiogram – Catherine Wong , aged 17
In 2012, 12th Grader Catherine Wong won NPR’s “Big Idea” contest by inventing an ECG (electrocardiogram) that could connect to a cellphone. Not only does the cellphone ECG make it far simpler to run standard tests anywhere, technology has the potential to make lifesaving technology available to billions all over the world who may not have access to otherwise expensive specialized medical equipment, but do have access to cellphones.
In an interview with NPR, Catherine says “I’m going to keep going on this project, making it smaller, cheaper, more durable.” Her long-term goal is to help patients in developing countries. “That’s who I aimed the project at, and that’s who I’m working for.”
7.) Muppets – Jim Henson, aged 16~19
At 19, Muppets creator Jim Henson wasn’t exactly a child when he filed an a patent application with the USPTO for a “puppet doll or similar article”. Patent Number D186119, was technically a design patent, stating “the ornamental design for a puppet doll or similar article as shown or described.” He did however, develop his ideas for what would become muppets years before, inspired by ventriloquist acts on TV and by a puppetry class he took in college.
This and a few of the other entries here show that you don’t need to be hi-tech to be an inventor. Knowing how to sew might be all you need to know.
8.) Braille Writing System – Louis Braille, aged 15
Louis Braille invented the world’s most popular blind reading/writing system when he was just 15 years old. There were other blind writing system before Braille came up with his. Braille himself was inspired by a system used by the French military for night reading. The brilliance of Braille’s improvement lay in its relative simplicity of his system and the fact that it could also be used for musical and mathematical notations.
Today, Braille is the standard form of writing and reading used by blind people in nearly every language the world over.
9.) All-electronic Television Systems – Philo T. Farnsworth, aged 15~21
Hard to imagine, but there was a time when television sets needed moving mechanical parts to produce an image. This made TV sets much less reliable than they otherwise could be, and investors were hard to convince about the merits of TV.
Philo T. Farnsworth was only 15 when he conceptualized the all-electronic TV, and started creating diagrams and practical designs based on developments done by other inventors such as John Logie Baird and Vladimir Kosmich Zworykin. He was 21 when he finally got to demonstrate his ground-breaking all-electronic set to the general public.
Potential investors had demanded to know when they would see a return on investment, so the first the first image publicly transmitted was a dollar sign.
Philo T. Farmsworth went on to have 100 patents under his name and become an inspiration for Futurama character Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth.
Lego image credits: psiaki via photopin cc, psiaki via photopin cc
Got an awesome invention? Visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office website to find out how to protect your creative rights!
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