Young inventors tackle challenges with aplomb

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Lebanon - posted Sun., Apr. 10, 2011
First-grader Benjamin Purvins shows off his 'Train Car Putter-on-er' at Lebanon Elementary School's Invention Convention. Photos by Melanie Savage.
First-grader Benjamin Purvins shows off his 'Train Car Putter-on-er' at Lebanon Elementary School's Invention Convention. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Ninety-five young inventors filled the gymnasium of Lebanon Elementary School on the afternoon of April 6 for the school’s annual Invention Convention.

Under the direction of science and enrichment teacher Carolyn Wheeler, the students were challenged to identify a problem, and then find a creative solution. Kids worked on their inventions at home, then had the opportunity to show them off to friends, family and classmates at school. The school will send a number of students to the state Invention Convention at the University of Connecticut in May.

First-grader Benjamin Purvins was having difficulty getting the wheels of his model trains lined up with the track. “They’ve got to be lined up just right,” he said. Purvins has amassed a number of train sets over the years. “I got three trains for Christmas,” he said, “one when I was 5, one when I was 6 and one when I was 7. I’ve got 15 freight cars up in my room.” His invention is a piece of wood that surrounds the tracks, guiding the model engine to the perfect location. “It makes it a lot easier for children and adults,” he said.

Fourth-grader Megan Rice is no stranger to inventions. Her cake-cutter creation, developed when she was in the first grade, earned her a trip to the “Ellen DeGeneres Show.” This year, Rice came up with two different inventions. “Cross Outs Be Gone” is a file folder with an erasable tab. “My mom has files like this and she has to throw them away,” she said, holding up a conventional manila folder. When Rice began her research, she discovered that an erasable folder tab had already been invented. But she said that she has improved upon the design. “This one, from Home Depot, you can’t get it off very well,” she said. “Mine is just like a dry erase board and comes right off.”

Rice’s second invention was portable pocket than can be clipped onto leggings, sweatpants and other clothing.

Second-grader Emily Glazier solved her problem by adapting an existing tool. Using parts from her mom’s vacuum cleaner, she added some flexible tubing and clamps and came up with “The Super-Duper Fan Cleaner.” Now, Glazier can easily vacuum the ceiling fan suspended from the cathedral ceiling in her family’s living room. “I don’t have to stand on the sofa to do it anymore,” she said. And the blades on the family’s fan have never been cleaner. “I clean it a lot because it’s fun,” said Glazier.

Check out the top Lebanon Elementary School inventors, along with other young inventors from around the state, at the 28th Annual Connecticut Invention Convention, scheduled for Saturday, May 14, at UConn’s Gampel Pavilion. For more information, visit

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