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Gripping Inventions

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The "Clothes Grabber," designed to ease the arduous task of removing clothes from under the bed during room-cleaning, caught the eye of the judges.

The "Animal Escape Alarm" and "Very Tasty Flavo Reeds" also impressed the panel.

The elementary- and junior-high-school students who created the three inventions were among nine award winners this month in the New Jersey Education Department's annual "Mini-Invention/Innovation Team Contest."

The object of the statewide competition, open to all students in grades K-8, is to develop technological solutions to problems children encounter in daily life, explained Sylvia M. Kaplan, director of the education department's Technology for Children Program.

"It gives them a chance to solve those problems in a hands-on manner," she said.

Or, in the case of Karen Rule, a 1st grader from the Brigantine school district, a hands-off manner. She developed the "Clothes Grabber," a long rod with a clip at the end, to retrieve clothes from those hard-to-reach places.

Deborah O'Brien, a 4th grader from the Eastampton school district, designed the "Animal Escape Alarm" to help keep tabs on her pet rabbit. Her invention is an electronic device that activates an alarm when the lid of the rabbit's cage is lifted.

And Jeffrey Sperber, a 7th grader in the Wanaque school district, created "Very Tasty Flavo Reeds" to make practicing his saxophone more enjoyable. Ms. Kaplan could not say what flavors were involved, but she noted that the judges sampled some reeds and agreed that they were indeed very tasty.

The children are encouraged to market their inventions, and "some of them have gotten patents," Ms. Kaplan said. Jeffrey Sperber currently is marketing his Flavo Reeds to New Jersey music teachers, she reported.

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