Gets a kick out of oversized check
By B.C. Manion
It all started with an observation she made at home.
Fifth-grader Alex Kimball simply didn’t like the way a sponge smelled after her mom used it to clean off a counter in her Wesley Chapel home. The 11-year-old wondered how to disinfect sponges, and her curiosity led to a prototype of a device that would do just that.
Her model was an aluminum box with a place for the sponge and an LED light, which would become a UV light to kill germs if the invention were manufactured.
Kimball entered her invention in the University of South Florida’s Young Innovator Competition. Her idea, A Sweet Spot for Sponges, was a hit with the judges, landing her a first place win in the elementary school division of the contest.
Snagging the top prize was no small accomplishment.
The winners were selected from 14 finalists that had been culled from a record-setting field of 536 entries from eight counties. The winners were chosen based on their originality, functionality and market potential by a panel of expert and celebrity judges.
The Academy at the Lakes student was thrilled by her victory. Not only did she become the first elementary student in the school’s history to capture the top prize, she also won $1,000 for her school, $1,000 for herself and a mountain bike.
She got such a kick out of the oversized check that she keeps it in a place of honor: hanging above her bed.
The student, who said she enjoys the hands-on nature of science, recalled that the week before the winners were picked the finalists had a chance to do a practice run on their presentations.
“It helped a lot,” she said.
She was advised to ditch the scientific board she’d created and replace it with one aimed more toward marketing her invention.
So, she got to work.
That’s when she came up with her catchphrase: “It’s better for the budget, better for your family, better for the environment.”
She reasoned that families would spend less if they could zap their sponges and use them again. They’d also benefit if the bacteria on a sponge could be conveniently killed, and the environment would benefit because fewer sponges would end up in landfills.
The winners were selected by a panel of innovation experts, including infomercial pioneer Kevin Harrington, the CEO of TVGoods.com; Home Shopping Network host Bill Green; former Bay News 9 anchor and inventor Jen Holloway and USF innovation leaders.
The Young Innovator Competition was founded and is led by the non-profit corporation, Innovation Express, founded and led by Anton Hopen, a USF alumnus and Tampa patent attorney.