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Whiz kids put their gee-whiz ideas in MOSI's contest for youthful inventors

TAMPA — Anna Hopen's parents admit she's ambitious. The 10-year-old inventor's list of things to do includes: create an underwater car, find new rocket fuels, design a time portal.

While she hasn't quite perfected any of those projects, she has accomplished another goal: helping elementary school students in the Tampa Bay area find their inner inventor.

Ten students have been selected as finalists for today's Innovation Express Youth Inventors contest at Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry. The event was created by the Smith & Hopen firm.

Anton Hopen, Anna's father and a patent lawyer, credits his homeschooled daughter with encouraging him to put together the contest as a way for bay area 6- to 11-year-olds to show off their creativity and persuasiveness, and the marketability and public benefit of their creations.

"We announced the contest in late January, and MOSI has been very generous," Hopen said.

The winner will receive $1,000 and a $500 donation made to the child's school. Hopen said that each entrant will receive one MOSI pass. But the top 10 finalists will get a yearlong MOSI membership.

Students aren't required to produce a finished invention in this year's competition, but they must show the plans and be able to explain how it will work, Hopen said.

Anna Hopen said she came up with the concept of an inventions competition to see what other ideas were out there.

"I thought it would be fun for everyone to make an invention," Anna said.

There were more than 100 applications from students, and Anton Hopen said he enjoyed the creativity of some of them. Students from Hillsborough and Pinellas counties are represented in the top 10, said Shani Jefferson, a spokeswoman for MOSI.

"It was the most fun I've had in a long time," Hopen said. He saw applications for peanut detectors, animal communication keyboards — and even a toy ship that sinks when it touches a toy iceberg in the bathtub.

Tyler Dunn, 10, of Tampa said he was really excited when he found out he was a finalist in the competition.

The Bryant Elementary student said he has been annoyed for some time by the way soft tacos come open and fall apart while he's eating them. So when the posters for the competition were put up at his fifth-grade class, he decided to enter his idea for edible taco tape.

"It's made of like cheese and corn syrup and adhesive," Tyler said.

If he wins, he plans to use his prize money for college or a canoe.

Jefferson said other top 10 ideas include vibrating shoes, an ice cooler rack, a water splasher for windows and a double insulin pump.

And while Anna is saddened she can't compete in the contest, she said she's happy that other students will get the chance to showcase their smarts.

"I'm looking for the creativity," Anna said. "I like things that are different."

Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or rmitchell@sptimes.com.

Fast Facts

If you go

What: Innovation Express Youth Inventors contest for Tampa Bay elementary schoolers.

When: 6 p.m. tonight.

Where: MOSI at 4801 East Fowler Ave in Tampa.

Admission: free.

Whiz kids put their gee-whiz ideas in MOSI's contest for youthful inventors 03/17/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 17, 2009 11:49pm]
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