Young Inventors Got Ideas

Eight-year-old contestant in USF’s Innovation Express Young Inventors Contest makes good with pain-free solution.


Video credit: Amy Mariani / News


By Barbara Melendez News Writer


TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 4, 2011) – Scientist, inventor, entrepreneur, writer, musician, songwriter, tennis champion, environmentalist, philanthropist and all by the age of eight.


Alanna Meyers is just one of hundreds who entered last year’s University of South Florida-sponsored Second Annual Innovation Express Youth Inventors Contest to compete with children from the eight-county Tampa Bay region, as hundreds have again this year.  Finalists and winners will be chosen in February, but all who enter should take note of what’s possible.


Even with so much going for her, Alanna didn’t win or make it to the finals, but she’s an example of why it’s important to compete in the marketplace of ideas and never give up on a dream.    


The young innovator’s invention came about when she felt it just wasn’t right that bandages hurt so much when they were being removed and so decided to do something about it.  With that, Pain Free Bandage Remover came into the world, a product that is now receiving national attention.


She formulated and used the bandage remover herself, shared it with a friend and then her whole class wanted it.  When the Innovation contest hit her radar, “it was more of a fun project and she had only planned on creating it and sharing it with her friends,” said her mother, Julia Stewart.  “We had not initially planned on taking it to market.”


At that stage, it was not enough to only create a product.  From the start, Alanna insisted that everything about it be organic and that the packaging be recyclable.  Her parents helped her find an organic laboratory to produce the earth-friendly product that is safe for sensitive skin.    

Her mother says that’s just how she is.  “She has a scientific and creative mind. She’s also sweet and thoughtful.  Alanna’s a unique child.”


This is not just a proud parent speaking.  This is Alanna’ business partner, mentor and someone who simply respects her daughter as the remarkable person she is.


“She does everything by choice.  We don’t push her,” her mother said.  “As she loves the arts, when I told her not all children have the opportunity to study the arts, she immediately wanted to do something about that.” And this decision led to committing 1% of all sales to the arts for children in Florida’s schools.


Alanna wrote out the application herself and took the photo of her prototype, wrote in her class journal about it, and told her class about it, who were all hoping for her,” Stewart said.

But her mother explained that there was no guarantee Alanna would win or be a finalist because there would be such a large field of contestants.  This was advice she took to heart.


“Whether you win or lose it's important to take a good attitude about it and have fun just doing it,” Alanna said.  “I had a lot of fun when I entered.  It was fun having all of my classmates support me.” 


Alanna says Pain Free Bandage Remover is perfect for children, elderly people, pediatricians, day care centers, hospitals, assisted living facilities and nursing homes and could soon be a product on store shelves anywhere bandages are sold. The nationally-televised series, The Doctors, recently interviewed the young entrepreneur by phone and showed her product in use. 


Looking over this year’s field of submissions to find the next great invention will be panelists made up of top scientists, the USF Office of Research & Innovation leadership and representatives from Innovation Express Corporation, a nonprofit entity founded by USF alumnus Anton Hopen.


“The very act of thinking about inventing, or trying to invent something is exciting,” said Hopen.  “And it’s almost impossible to predict where the next great idea will come from.  But this competition plants the seeds and provides the kind of encouragement that is fundamental to our country’s success.” 


Alanna’s mother couldn’t agree more. “Children are so sharp, if you really listen to them, if they’re allowed to share their ideas and if you give them the respect they deserve.”


In fact, it was Hopen’s daughter Anna who invented the children’s invention competition.  Her father listened and Alanna is glad he did. 


"I would definitely recommend entering The Young Inventors Contest because it makes you want to work harder on your invention and come up with even more ideas. Also, it's fun for kids to get trophies. If you have a problem with anything, try to figure out a solution and don't give up. If you have an idea, believe in yourself, and try to invent it. You never know, you might be the winner!" 


In the end, as Hopen points out, “This is not a science fair, this is all about bringing science and business together.”


This year, projects were submitted between Oct. 1 and Jan. 27. Preliminary judging by Paul Sanberg, Associate Vice President for Research & Innovation and members of the USF chapter of the National Academy of Inventors took place Feb. 1, and finalists will make their presentations Feb. 11 at 6:30 p.m. in the Interdisciplinary Research Building Galleria at the USF Research Park.


The USF College of Arts & Sciences hones their presentation and marketing skills in a workshop prior to the event.  HSN’s Jennifer Cotter has volunteered to give pointers and serve as a mentor to the 15 finalists.  USF Senior Vice President for Research, Innovation and Global Affairs Karen Holbrook and Valerie McDevitt, Assistant Vice President for Patents and Licensing are among a panel of judges which also includes infomercial pioneer Kevin Harrington.  For more information visit

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.