... And the World Beat a Path to Her Door
A 5th-grade student given an extra-credit assignment on the subject of "inventors" never thought she would invent something, much less see her product marketed in the United States and around the world.
Wendy Johnecheck, now a 6th grader at the 360-student St. Francis Xavier Grade School in Petoskey, Mich., last spring invented a four-way jump rope that requires four--instead of eight--students to twirl. Subsequently, she signed a contract to allow Quality Industries of Hillsdale, Mich., to market the product, which is now featured in some 250,000 catalogues mailed to playgrounds, recreation centers, and schools here and abroad.
"We were studying the Industrial Revolution and students were to choose an inventor and invention and make an oral presentation," explained Sister Mary Ann Spanjers, Wendy's teacher. "For extra credit, I suggested that they come up with an invention of their own."
One student invented a game, another a folder for homework papers. Wendy decided to braid ropes out of twine from her family's barn and attach them to a post that could be in-serted in the ground.
Wendy said she had thought she would simply "bring her invention into school and get a grade on it and that would be the end of it," but Sister Mary Ann and her classmates had other ideas.
The class, with the teacher's guidance, had the rope installed at school; they gave the product a name and a slogan ("Jump a bunch with Quadro Jump"); wrote business letters to Midwestern industries to market the product; and worked with a patent lawyer to obtain a patent for the product.
According to Sister Mary Ann, the students learned several valuable lessons from the project, including "cooperation, the legalities and red tape of business, and what was involved in marketing a product."
"It made the inventors we studied more real and showed students that it is still possible today for someone with an idea to continue and develop it into something," she said.
Wendy says she doesn't know whether she will invent anything else besides the Quadro Jump. She is, however, at work on an independent-study project during her "enrichment" period, she said. "I'm now studying people's behavior. I want to know why, if you say 'hi' to other people, they say 'hi' back."