The finals of the 2013 USF Young Innovator Competition were held Monday night on the University of South Florida campus, featuring the top 10 of the nearly 600 submissions this year.
First prize went to Mica Jadick, a seventh-grader from Martinez Middle School in Lutz, for her cereal-sifting device. George Seits from Middleton High School in Tampa took home second place, while Katie Warren, a third-grader from St. Paul’s School in Clearwater, won third prize.
Event founder and local patent attorney Anton Hopen said the fifth edition of the competition was the most successful ever, in terms of numbers of applicants as well as the difficulty in choosing the finalists.
“This was the best event we’ve ever had,” Hopen said by phone. “We had the highest number of submissions, and it took the judges the longest amount of time to decide on the winners.”
In fact, the judges had such a hard time selecting the top three out of the 10 finalists, they decided to name a fourth winner in a special category just so he wouldn’t get left out.
“One judge reached in his pocket and pulled out a wad of cash and said, ‘We need to reward more than three this year or we’re going to be here all night’,” Hopen said.
Jonathan Ullom, a home-schooled student from Polk County, was awarded a special recognition for inventing a device that safely clears clogged grass from lawn mowers.
Each of the top 10 finalists receive free annual family passes to MOSI, while the first place finisher receives $1,000 for their school as well as an opportunity to develop and patent their invention.
Marissa Streng, the winner of the 2011 competition, was there Monday to receive a special award from USF president Judy Genshaft.
Streng, also a St. Paul’s student, just had a patent issued for her invention, a dog-drying device known as the Puff-n-Fluff.
“I’ve been a patent lawyer for over 15 years and I’ve never heard of anyone under the age of 18 getting one of those patents, let alone a 10-year-old,” Hopen said.
After many teachers told him they were unaware of the competition, Hopen said he is already working on next year’s event in hope to set new records and turn more kids on to the world of innovation.
“We have 600 kids who know how to search and apply for patents thanks to this competition," he said. "After they do it once, they always want to do it again.”
2013 Young Innovators Top Ten FinalistsName Grade School Town Mica Jadick 7th Martinez Middle School Lutz George Seits 10th Middleton High School Tampa Katie Warren 3rd St. Paul's School Clearwater Cooper Tharington 4th Walden Lake Elementary Plant City Grace Larson 4th Safety Harbor Elementary Safety Harbor Jonathan Ullom 11th Home schooled Polk Keeley Karnes 3rd St. Paul’s School Clearwater Nicholas Boyd 8th Oak Grove Middle School Clearwater Prerna Ravinder 5th McKeel Academy Lakeland Stamatina Liristis 3rd St. Paul's School Clearwater
For more information on the USF Young Innovators Competition and a compete list of finalists and their inventions, visit the website at usfyounginnovator.org