Inventors & Their Inventions

Season 1A Inventors

INVENTOR: William Pitt

Photograph of William PittWilliam Pitt has always wanted to be MacGyver. He may not have been able to make his invention out of a Swiss Army Knife, watch and duct tape, but this season of Everyday Edisons will prove that William is just as resourceful as MacGyver. Although he has made various career transitions, having been everything from an airplane mechanic to a real estate agent, William’s love for inventions and adventures remains unchanged since childhood. From backpacking with his parents in the mountain wilderness at age three, to personally designing and building a human-powered vehicle replica of Batman’s Batmobile to compete in the “Great Kinetic Sculpture Race,” William never stops.

William’s invention idea occurred to him while watching a neighbor trim his yard with a weed whacker. He thought that by attaching a wheel to the trimming string he could motorize anything else that was on wheels, too. William developed his concept and coined it the “Skate Scepter,” which could propel a person on a skateboard, in-line skates or anything with wheels without ever having to push. So William brought his Skate Scepter to the Season Two Everyday Edisons casting call in San Diego, Calif., on Feb. 24, 2007. He hopes his Skate Scepter will have the wind ripping through every skateboarder’s hair on those days when they just don’t feel like having to push.

INVENTOR: Ted Tomaiuolo

Photograph of Ted TomaiuoloRetired Air National Guardsmen Ted Tomaiuolo of Hartford, Conn., has worked to be an inventor his entire life. Technically he’s retired, but with more than 1,500 patents to his name you could consider Ted a full-time inventor. At the age of 18, Ted was accepted into the Air National Guard and served for the next 23 and a half years, including a stint abroad as an aircraft crew chief during the Korean War. After returning from Korea, Ted began inventing. To help pay for his patents, he opened a part-time welding shop and began working on aircraft, spacecraft and U-boat components.

The invention which landed Ted on Season Two of Everyday Edisons is unrelated to his military experience, but serves to make his daily life a bit less messy. Ted, like many Americans, has diabetes. He has to prick his finger several times a day to test his blood glucose levels. At times, he would bleed badly, but by the time he removed the bandage from its packaging to apply it, he would already have a mess. To remedy the messy problem, he developed “the speed bandage” which easily dispenses bandages off of a spool. He hopes his invention will revolutionize bandage packaging and save countless others from having to deal with the same predicament.

INVENTOR: Sheldon Levinson

Photograph of Sheldon LevinsonSheldon Levinson loves to tinker in the garage. Inventing success finally hit when he ended a long day of tinkering with favorable results – mounds of growing bubbles! Although Sheldon’s wife could never seem to understand why he was up to his elbows in liquid soap, the seventh prototype of his playful bubble maker landed him a spot on the second season of Everyday Edisons. Sheldon created a bubble machine that would allow the bubbles to maintain their shape as they grew and multiplied in and around a tube. Sheldon brought his prototype to the final Season Two casting call in San Diego, and had the judges bubbling with excitement about bringing his machine to market.

Sheldon, a San Diego native, had his first taste of designing as a teenager. He helped his father design “The Tunnel," a disco with parachutes on the ceiling, a color organ design and a black light, flashing tunnel entry. Besides inventing, Sheldon has been in the recreational industry since 1984, buying and selling motor homes with La Mesa RV Center, Inc. Before entering the industry, Sheldon was an entrepreneur who started a lighting supply business owned and operated by his family. In his free time Sheldon loves to go to the movies and travel, and he’ll tell you that some of his best vacations were won as sales incentives.

Although bubbles have been around for centuries, Sheldon hopes his bubble machine will bring as much joy to those who play with it as it has brought him in creating it.

INVENTOR: Michael Diep

Photograph of Michael DiepAdversity is no stranger to Michael Diep, whose determination has allowed him to overcome all odds to bring him where he stands today. A full-time business consultant who has tinkered with inventions for the past eight years, Michael finally got his chance to bring the first of his products to market when he presented his cat claw duller prototype at the Everyday Edisons casting call in San Diego on Feb. 24, 2007. Since Michael’s day is filled by his work, taking his cat to the veterinarian every couple of weeks to clip its nails was quickly becoming a burdensome chore. With no time to spare for even this simple task, he decided to create a solution. Michael developed a cat jungle-gym which featured a post covered in sandpaper to file down the cat’s nails as it plays.

Things have not always been easy for Michael, who at the age of seven escaped with his family by boat from Vietnam to take refuge in Indonesia for two years. The Dieps later immigrated to the United States in 1980. The challenges and hardships Michael has faced have driven him to be successful as a consultant and hopefully as an inventor, or as he sees himself, a problem solver. The Everyday Edisons judges saw potential in his cat claw duller invention and have set the team of product development professionals to work. Michael hopes cat lovers and their furniture alike will welcome his cat claw duller.

INVENTOR: Aaron Tang

Photograph of Aaron TangAaron Tang is an experienced industrial designer who pushed the boundaries of technology and design when he created his feisty alarm clock. Aaron designed a clock that could shake, ring and encourage even the heaviest of sleepers to bounce out of bed. He pitched his working prototype to the Everyday Edisons product experts on Jan. 20, 2007, in Washington, D.C., with hopes of seeing his model developed into tomorrow’s must-have alarm clock.

Aaron’s zest for industrial design began at an early age and was further developed through his education at the Rhode Island School of Design, Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and eventually the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Laboratory. Industrial design enables him to approach any challenge or topic, learn about it and create an innovative solution to the problem. He currently lives just outside of Boston in Somerville, Mass., and is also an experienced violinist, who enjoys playing tennis, Ultimate Frisbee, and above all else, eating, which he likes to blame on the Food Network! Since his high school days in Lawrence, Kan., most of Aaron’s friends have called him “Tango.” As a professional industrial designer and independent inventor, Aaron will flick, flip, pull and tear apart anything that sparks his curiosity.

INVENTOR: James Jenkins

Photograph of James JenkinsSome people struggle with a common task and only wish for a solution. But James Jenkins, of Ahoskie, N.C., is not one to sit back on his heels and wait on someone else. As a busy father of three, shopping at the local grocery store or mall always became a cumbersome task when trying to hold several bags – and little hands – at the same time. James has worked for UPS, Inc. for 17 years now so he’s also had to carry many packages throughout his career.

Rather than continue to struggle, James devised a handy solution called the “Bag Buddy” which created a hands-free alternative that will be beneficial to both delivery men and shoppers on the go. It eases the pain of carrying several weighty bags at once while featuring a shoulder strap with hooks for securing each bag by its handles.

James is a member of the Inventors Network of the Carolinas and the president of Innovative Consumer Products, LLC. He excels at sports and was featured on the cover of The Black College Sports Review in 1990.

These days James and his wife Regina are proud parents of three wonderful children. James hopes that this journey will be an example to his kids of the value in following through on their dreams.

INVENTOR: Matthew Fleming

Photograph of Matthew FlemingMatthew Fleming grew up collecting games and toys and moving from country to country. His love for games and toys prompted him to invent an improved version of traditional table tennis, which he brought to the Everyday Edisons casting call in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 2007. Matthew waited at the casting call for hours and ended up being the very last presenter of the day. His patience paid off, however, when he and his wife, Erin, wowed the judges with their rousing demonstration and Matthew was eventually selected as a Season Two “Everyday Edison.”

Matthew and Erin demonstrated a small, portable table tennis game. The table was split in two so that players can arrange it in different configurations and at varying distances apart.

Matthew’s new spin on table tennis isn’t his only invention. He loves thinking of new ideas and frequently writes about them on his blog, Matthew is a clinical psychologist who enjoys spending time with his wife and their two shih-tzus, Baxter and Barkley.

INVENTOR: Bob Lemire

Photograph of Bob LemireWhen Bob Lemire wants to make his wife happy, he certainly puts forth his best effort. When Bob realized his wife wanted the pictures in their dining room to be hung perfectly level, he began the typical battle with levels, tape measures and pencil marks on the wall. After making numerous holes in his wall, he set his mind to the task of creating a solution: a frame consisting of three screws for the user to adjust the picture after it is mounted on the wall. With a working model in hand, he decided to head to the Washington, D.C., casting call where he was selected as a finalist.

The retired nuclear engineer is no stranger to hanging pictures. In addition to working part-time at The Home Depot, he provides picture hanging services for a variety of locations and homes. He has hung pictures in an Empire State Building office, as well as the “Pink Floyd” house in the Hamptons on Long Island.

Bob is no novice inventor. He uses his free time to work on prototypes in his Kings Park, N.Y., basement and he has dedicated much of his time to research ways to detect breast cancer and prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Bob was a founding member of the New York Society of Professional Inventors and wrote an op-ed article published in The New York Times entitled “Inventors Need Carrots.”

INVENTORS: Mary Kisko and Lisa Glickstein

Photograph of Mary Kisko and Lisa GlicksteinBefore Mary Kisko and Lisa Glickstein ever thought of teaming up to develop their invention for man’s best friend, Mary was Lisa’s charge nurse and mentor in New Jersey. When Mary decided she wanted to invent a dog leash that fit on the upper arm modeled like a blood pressure cuff, Lisa came to her aid.

Eight years ago Mary came up with the idea as she was power walking her late dog, Marla. As Mary swung her arms, she kept smacking Marla with the leash. She tried sliding the handle loop above her elbow to reduce the movement, but the loop slid off easily, prompting her to come up with a better way to hold the lease steady on the upper arm… and that’s when the blood pressure cuff came to mind.

It was Mary’s son, Clayton, who encouraged his mom to pursue the idea by trying to obtain a patent. Lisa joined Mary in the project and came up with the idea to use a bungee cord for leash material and helped to draw an easy-to-conceptualize three-dimensional design.

Through the process, the two nurses found that the patent process isn’t the only hurdle in the development process. Actually getting the product on store shelves is quite the challenge too. They decided to seek help from Everyday Edisons and attended the January casting call in Washington, D.C. Now as “Everyday Edisons” they have the opportunity to see their little project come to life and eventually used by active dog walkers and owners.

INVENTOR: Mingwei Zhang

Photograph of Mingwei ZhangMingwei Zhang finished his prototype for the ab belt workout on February 20, 2007, just four days before the Everyday Edisons casting call in San Diego, Calif., on February 24, 2007. Mingwei designed the ab belt to be worn around the stomach and provide resistance and vibration as one inhales and exhales. This in effect develops the abdominal muscles while teaching a controlled breathing technique. Mingwei was inspired to create the ab belt through his studies of Qigong, an ancient Chinese system of postures, exercises, breathing techniques and meditations.

Mingwei grew up in China and took second place in an invention tournament organized by the Chinese government for a lamp he had designed and engineered. He worked as a successful acupuncturist in China, treating medical professors, government officials and others. When he wasn’t studying medicine, he was inventing. He came up with a shock gun, hoping that taxi drivers in China could use them as self defense. Although the product’s development never panned out in China, he is happy that there is a similar product in the U.S. today.

INVENTORS: Bill Simmons and Randy Hatfield

Photograph of Bill Simmons and Randy HatfieldBill Simmons is a retired disabled veteran, and like most Americans, was always overwhelmed with the clutter created by numerous cords leading to electrical outlets. He has moved from house to house throughout his life and is always annoyed when it’s time to install his TV and Stereo system. He knew there should be a safer way of storing all of the wires, so with the help of his longtime friend, Randy Hatfield, he morphed similar ideas and concepts to develop the smart solution they brought from their coastal roots in New Bern, N.C., to the Everyday Edisons casting call in Washington, D.C.

After serving as a Marine, Bill had tried his hand in several fields including candle manufacturing and video production. He was even a sail boat delivery captain. Needless to say, he had no problem adding "inventor" to his long résumé. Randy is a property manager and investor by vocation, but he considers building and remodeling his first career. This certainly gave him the background he needed to develop a working model to their solution, which they named the “Cord-X.” He and Bill often play golf together and claim they even conduct their board meetings on the golf course.

Randy doesn’t like to boast much, but once his product is complete he’ll surely have something to write home about!

INVENTORS: Cody and Mark Fox

Photograph of Cody and Mark FoxIn his freshman year math class, Cody Fox found a solution. It was not the answer to some Algebra equation or Geometry proof, but rather a solution that would save he and his schoolmates from being charged hefty fines for damages to their textbooks. Cody’s idea, combined with additional suggestions from his brother, Mark, landed both of the Fox brothers a spot on Everyday Edisons. The two high school students from Charlotte, N.C., traveled across the country to the San Diego, Calif., casting call to present their plastic-infused book cover prototype to the Everyday Edisons product experts. Their version combined a traditional cloth book cover with protective, hard plastic edges so it would not only prevent pen and pencil marks, but also have the ability to stave off wear and tear damage to the spine and edges. While the Fox brothers merely set out to save themselves a few hundred dollars in damaged book fines, they ended up making major improvements on the design of a product used daily in schools nationwide. After high school, Cody and Mark hope to attend universities where they can spread the better book cover fever.

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When to Watch

Everyday Edisons premieres June 19, 2008
Check your local listings.