USF Research News

Martinez Middle School 6th Grader Wins USF Young Innovator Competition

February 14, 2017

Invention of The Handy Can wins $2,500 top prize out of more than 600 entries

Gracie Fredrickson Winner of the 2017 Young Innovator Competition Gracie Fredrickson

TAMPA, Fla. – A sixth grader seeking to make the chore of taking out the trash less cumbersome won the top prize in the USF Young Innovator Competition for creating The Handy Can, which allows a roll of garbage bags to be easily and cleanly stored and dispensed.

The invention from Gracie Frederickson of Martinez Middle School was picked as tops in a field of six inventions in the ninth annual kid inventors’ competition, held Friday at the USF Research Park Galleria. A panel of expert inventors and scientists selected The Handy Can based on its innovation and marketability potential; Frederickson was awarded $2,500 to support further research and commercialization of the project and her education.

Gracie pitched her invention as “so simple even a small child can use it” and said the idea of the trash can is similar to the common pop-up containers that are used for baby wipes. By keeping the roll of garbage bags in separate compartment that feeds new bags through the bottom of the can, a clean trash bag can be placed in the canister as quickly as a filled one is removed.

“Once you try it, you are going to want to buy it!” she exclaimed in her up-beat and animated product pitch.

Finishing as first runner up and with $1,000 was Keegan Bencivenga, a fourth grader at Walden Lake Elementary, who devised a method to fill Nerf darts with washable paint to make the popular dart tag game more fun – and fair. “We all know those kids who play like they are never shot,” Keegan told the panel of judges, before he proceeded to use his best friend as a target to demonstrate.

Keegan Bencivenga First Runner-up Keegan Bencivenga

Second runner up was Cole Stevens, a third grader at Spessard L. Holland Elementary, for his invention of a double lid container – a plastic jar with screw tops at both ends. Cole told the judges he invented the container as a solution to getting to the peanut butter at the bottom of the jar. The invention won him $500. “The purpose of my container is so you don’t get your hands sticky,” he said, adding that the container could also be modified with magnets on the inside of the caps for storing nuts and bolts.

Cole Stevens Second Runner-up Cole Stevens

The remaining three finalists received $100 for their entries. Annalisa Urena, an eighth grader at Family of Christ Christian School, developed a smart phone app to help children with autism communicate their emotions; an idea she was inspired by her friendship with an autistic boy. Jake Mulvihill of Martinez Middle School developed a training device for swimmers wanting to perfect their backstroke, which he said was inspired by his sister – a nationally-ranked swimmer in the backstroke – undergoes in her training regime.

The event’s youngest competitor was Ketan Nallamshetty, a first grader at Macfarlane Park Elementary School, who developed a silicon safety shield for protecting fingers reaching into a hot toaster. “Even though I am little, I like to do big things,” Ketan said.

All participants in the USF Young Innovator Competition received a free one-day pass to MOSI for their entry.

The winners were selected by a panel of experts: Paul Sanberg, USF Senior Vice President for Research, Innovation & Economic Development; Valerie Landrio McDevitt, USF Associate Vice President for Technology Transfer & Business Partnerships; and entrepreneur Sebastian Dewhurst, who has developed software and industrial applications for aircraft engines and nuclear reactors.

2017 finalists 2017 Young Innovator Finalists

This year, the top 20 entries were selected from a field of 636 submissions. The top submissions were then evaluated by members of the USF Chapter of the National Academy of Inventors on criteria such as originality, demonstrability and marketability of the ideas. The goal is for the students to produce inventions that might be submitted for U.S. patents and go as far as producing and marketing a new product.

This year’s event was sponsored by The Florida High Tech Corridor Council; MOSI; Smith and Hopen law firm; Research One, and Jack’s Magic Products. The USF Young Innovators Competition was founded nearly a decade ago by USF alum and patent attorney Anton Hopen and his daughter Anna, who is now a USF student.


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