Pooch Puffer Top USF Young Innovators Winner

A panel of celebrity judges picked the winners from a field of students from around Tampa Bay.


Video by: Amy Mariani | USF News


By Judy Lowry

Special to USF.edu News


TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 14, 2011) – A new system for drying dogs, a caddy that keeps groceries bags from spilling into car trunks and a retractable cord to keep headphones from becoming tangled won top prizes in the third annual USF Young Innovators Competition.


The inventions were tops in a field of 15 semi-finalists that went before a panel of celebrity judges. The grand prizes were awarded Friday evening, Thomas Edison’s birthday, in the finals at the USF Research Park to:


·         Outback Top Trademark Award – Marissa Streng, St. Paul’s School, Puff-N-Fluff Dog Drying System.


·         Elementary School winner – Marissa Streng, St. Paul’s School, Puff-N-Fluff Dog Drying System.


·         Middle School winner – Daniel Florentino, Martinez Middle School, Trunk Caddy.


·         High School winner – Ben Anderson, Home Schooled, Retractable Cord for Headphones.


The competition was open to students in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Citrus, Manatee, Sarasota, and Polk counties. The competition is divided into three divisions: Grades K-5 (elementary school students); Grades 6-8 (middle school students); and Grades 9-12 (high school students).

Streng said she was inspired to come up with a better dog drying system after bathing her own dog and attempting to towel dry him, only to find him still soaking wet. The space-age looking suit – properly branded with a USF Bulls logo – fits over the dog’s body and gently circulates warm air around the dog. The Trunk Caddy is an expandable tension rod that fits through the handles of grocery bags to keep them upright on the ride home. And Anderson, the winner in the high school category with his retractable headphone cord, has the additional notoriety of being the older brother of last year’s middle school winner, Luke Anderson.

USF Young Innovator Competition is designed to promote innovation and creativity in the Tampa Bay region’s young people by motivating them to solve problems with new ideas and products. Organizers have designed the competition to give children new insights into how their education gives them powerful tools and resources to solve problems, and coach them through how to make a professional presentation of a new idea.

The competition is the brainchild of Anna Hopen and her father, nationally-recognized patents attorney Anton Hopen, who is a 1991 USF graduate in interdisciplinary science. Additional details on prizes and the competition rules can be found at http://www.innovationexpress.org/Default.aspx.

The competition was decided by judges: Kevin Harrington, CEO of TVGoods.com and a pioneer in the infomercial industry; inventor and former Bay News 9 anchor Jen Holloway; Karen Holbrook, USF’s Senior Vice President for Research, Innovation & Global Affairs; pioneering stem cell researcher Paul Sanberg, USF’s Senior Associate Vice President for Research & Innovation and founder of the National Academy of Inventors; software developer Sebastian Dewhurst; LED lighting technology developer Israel Morejon and Valerie McDevitt, USF’s Assistant Vice President for Research in the Division of Patents & Licensing.

Preparations for the competition began in November when Bay area teachers gathered at Clearwater Beach for a daylong seminar on inspiring innovation.  The deadline for entries was Jan. 27 and finalists were selected Feb. 1 by a panel of more than two dozen of USF researchers who are members of the National Academy of Inventors. A full list of submissions can be found here.

Finalists spent a Saturday in February in a workshop with innovators and marketers to fine tune their presentation. Joining Hopen and Dewhurst in the coaching duties are Jennifer Cotter, Senior Vice President of HSN; and Eric Eisenberg, Dean of USF’s College of Arts & Sciences.

Winners in each division and each of their schools were awarded $1,000 and a trophy cup. Gift certificates and other prizes will be awarded to the finalists.

Judy Lowry can be reached at 813-974-3181.