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Contest Seeks To Reward Young Spirit Of Invention

January 9, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Her second-grade classmates laughed when Kristin Giallella invented a long- necked hanger for short people. But now the Buffalo, N.Y., girl is a role model for a new campaign to unleash the spirit of invention among American schoolchildren.

With a plug from President Reagan and with the U.S. commissioner of patents on hand to give his blessings, the U.S. Patent Model Foundation paraded Kristin and three other young inventors Friday at a news conference kicking off its ″Invent America″ contest.

It offers more than $100,000 in prizes to students and educators from kindergarten to the eighth grade, with one winner from each grade level chosen in June and the inventions exhibited in the nation’s capital.

The offerings that Kristin and the other children displayed - a Velcro football for youngsters who cannot catch; a brush with built-in hairspray and comb; and a packet of condiments for people on the run - were somewhat whimsical, but adults quickly pointed out a serious side to the project.

Foreigners claim a growing share of new U.S. patents, said Commissioner Donald J. Quigg: 45 percent last year, compared with 23 percent in 1968. And Japan has a half-million applications to its patent office each year, four times as many as Quigg’s office handles.

The president, in a letter, said that from the cotton gin to the airplane, ″American inventions have changed the world ... (and) made America prosperous. But if America is to keep its competitive spirit, it must keep its inventive spirit.″

Russell E. Hogg, president of MasterCard International Inc., the credit card company putting up the prize money, said, ″American children are really poised to unleash their ingenuity. It just takes some help for that to happen.″

Kristin Giallella, 9, now a fourth-grader at North Park Academy in Buffalo, N.Y., thought up ″The Tall Hanger For Short People″ two years ago as part of a class project for a local ″Invention Convention.″

Asked how a short person could reach a clothes rack, she thought, ″Well if only the hangers had longer necks.″ With help from her parents, she cut the neck off one hanger, stretched it out and taped it to another.

As with many inventions, it got a cold reception.

Her classmates ″didn’t really think it would do any good. They didn’t think it might win a prize,″ she said. It captured second-grade honors in the Buffalo contest - but it remains the sole specimen.

Deanna Whitmore, 12, a seventh-grade student from Richardson North Junior High School in Richardson, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, has made two of her ″Super Brushes″ by taping a canister of spray to a regular brush and drilling a hole for a fold-out comb. She got the idea watching her sister trying to cram a regular brush, comb and can of spray into her purse.

Another Richardson girl, Natalie Dudley, 10, a fifth-grader at Mark Twain Elementary School, found it bothersome to pack separate bottles of ketchup, pickles, mustard and onions for Girl Scout camp. She put them in a sealed plastic packet called ″Fix’Ins To Go.″

Juan Landas, 13, an eighth-grader at St. Agnes School in Arlington, Va., invented his Velcro football last year after watching the trouble some younger children were having trying to catch a ball.

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