USF Magazine Summer 2011

Volume 53 | Number 2


Entrepreneurs: Inventive Kids

| Office of Research & Innovation

Melissa Streng with her family's dog, Mojo

Elementary school student Melissa Streng took top honors at this year's USF-sponsored Young Innovator Competition with her "Puff-N-Fluff" dog drying system, modeled by the family's dog, Mojo.
Photo by Aimee Blodgett | USF News

A system for drying dogs, a caddy that keeps grocery bags from spilling into car trunks, and a retractable cord to keep headphones from becoming tangled all took top prizes in the third annual USF Young Innovator Competition.

The inventions were tops in a field of 15 semi-finalists who went before a panel of celebrity judges, including Karen Holbrook, USF's senior vice president for Research, Innovation & Global Affairs, and pioneering stem cell researcher Paul Sanberg, USF's senior associate vice president for Research & Innovation and founder of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). Befittingly, grand prizes were awarded to the students on Feb.11, Thomas Edison's birthday.

Third-grader Marissa Streng, whose dog drying system took the Outback Top Trademark Award, said she was inspired to come up with a better dog drying system after bathing her own dog and attempting to towel dry him, only to find him still soaking wet. The space-age looking suit — branded with a USF Bulls logo — fits over the dog's body and gently circulates warm air around the dog.

The USF Young Innovator Competition is designed to promote innovation and creativity in the Tampa Bay region's young people by motivating them to solve problems with new ideas and products. Organizers have designed the competition to give children new insights into how their education gives them powerful tools and resources to solve problems, and coach them through how to make a professional presentation of a new idea. The competition is divided into three divisions: Grades K-5 (elementary school students); Grades 6-8 (middle school students); and Grades 9-12 (high school students).

The competition is the brainchild of Anna Hopen and her father, nationally-recognized patent attorney Anton Hopen, who is a 1991 USF graduate in interdisciplinary science.

Members of the USF chapter of the NAI served as preliminary judges to select the 15 finalists. Grand prize winners in each division were awarded $1,000 and a trophy. In total, 472 student inventions were submitted for this year's competition.

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