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School-age inventors rise to the top with creative flair at competition in Central Library

Adam Tillou plays the violin, but it’s a pain lugging the instrument and his music stand to and from lessons.

So for the 13th annual Western New York Invention Convention, the fourth-grader at Smallwood Drive Elementary School in Amherst embarked on a solution. Adam was one of 140 young inventors from 19 schools who participated in the event held Sunday in the Central Library downtown. The youngsters, in kindergarten to eighth grade, submitted 111 creative inventions geared at solving a multitude of problems – from universal ones to personal pet peeves.

Adam invented “Supercase,” a filing case that’s also a music stand, which solved his problem and also garnered him “Young Inventor of the Year” for kindergarten to fourth grade.

“I feel very proud,” he said, clutching his trophy. “My friends thought I would win but I wasn’t quite sure.”

The event, which was sponsored by the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, aims to supplement and enhance the STEM curriculum at area schools by providing an opportunity for hands-on learning by putting theories into practice.

“The goal is to encourage scientific and creative problem-solving,” according to Merry Constantino, director of the event and owner of ProductLogic, a product design and development company in Buffalo. With American students trailing their international counterparts in those subject areas, Constantino said the convention is a refreshing way to revive their interests.

“It engages the creative side of their brains and they find it to be exciting,” she said.

This was the first time the event was held in the Central Library. More than 400 people attended, perusing inventions, displayed throughout the first floor of the library, such as the “Super Hiking Shorts, “Safe-X-Tend,” and “The Rest Vest.” Andy Parker, a WGRZ-TV meteorologist, was emcee.

The young inventors spent days to weeks brainstorming and researching ideas and then creating models of their inventions, most of which were conceptual. The event had 11 categories, including health/medical; home and garden; technology; electrical genius; and sports/games. Prizes included a $30 book bag provided by the library, gift certificates and other items donated by area businesses, Constantino said.

Devlyn Irr, a sixth-grader at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary School in Clarence, earned first place in the health/medical category for “Seiz,” a mouth guard that detects and soothes seizures. The invention also took the “Young Inventor of the Year” prize for grades 5 to 8.

“It’s great having the experience,” she said. Devlynn entered last year’s event but didn’t win a prize, so this year “I’m a little surprised that I won.”

Devlyn won a one-week stay at the science museum’s camp, and Adam won a week at Camp Invent.

The winners filmed videos that will be submitted to the “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” for a segment on young inventors called “Fallonventions,” Constantino said. Videos have been submitted previously, she said, and the show called the program. “I hope we get selected this year,” she said.