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December 22, 1997


Woodinville student is semi-finalist in McDonalds' invention contest


   photo courtesy of Kaelin Richards
     by Deborah Stone
   Kaelin Richards, a student in Ann Swain's sixth grade class at Woodin Elementary, is a semi-finalist in the "McDonalds Presents the 1997 Flubber Awards: An Invention Contest for Kids." Richards' invention, the Spill Stopper, a cup rim designed to prevent spills, was selected from thousands of entries submitted by elementary children nationwide. She is the sole semi-finalist from Washington State. The contest, sponsored by McDonalds, the Walt Disney Company and Scholastic, was designed to encourage creativity and problem-solving among elementary school children throughout the country.
   Richards' teacher, Ann Swain, received information about the contest about a month ago, on a Friday. Although the deadline for submitting entries was the following Monday, she encouraged her class to go home and create. Kaelin spent the weekend thinking and sketching possible ideas. She says, "I thought of things that could fix problems that people have each day. In my house we are always spilling stuff when we pour and drink." Her Spill Stopper is actually a lid that curves in with a spout. It would be made of plastic and be available in different colors, if manufactured. Kaelin also thought of a refrigerator door closer, an extra strong magnet to close the doors on refrigerators. Although she didn't submit sketches for such an invention, she feels it still has much merit. "Fridge doors don't seem to close all the way at times unless you really push them," says Richards. "It would be nice not to have to worry about that."
   According to Kaelin's mother, Heidi Richards, Kaelin is a very creative child. She says, "Kaelin has a busy mind that's always going. Her invention is clever and makes sense. The Spill Stopper would be quite useful in our house." Earlier this month, Kaelin received the news of her semi-finalist status. Although she didn't continue on to the finals, she was awarded a special "Flubber" movie package with a shirt, hat and McDonalds' gift certificates. Six finalists were chosen nationwide to present their creations to a panel of celebrity judges in Los Angeles. Their inventions include the Ping Pong Practicer, to help people practice the sport alone, Toothbrush Timer, to remind kids how long they have to brush their teeth, Collar Saver, to prevent soiling of collars, Fish Grip, to prevent fish from slipping when caught, Vegetable Hide-Away, to help children hide unwanted vegetables on their plates and the Raise-O-Matic 6000, to help kids raise their hands in class and prevent their arms from tiring. The grand prize winner receives a $5000 McDonalds' College Scholarship and an all-expenses-paid trip to EPCOT at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.
   Kaelin, a well-rounded child, who enjoys reading, writing, playing the viola and soccer, aspires to be many things when she grows up. She says, "Maybe I'll play viola in an orchestra or be an actress. I'm also interested in science and heard of a career where you can study living things outside the earth's atmosphere. That sounds cool!" Knowing Kaelin Richards, her curiosity will lead her many places and perhaps one day, we'll see her inventions for sale in a store nearby.