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Thomas Theiner, the winner of the Science Center’s 2015 Inventors Lab showcase, has successfully submitted his U.S. patent application and is now one of a few people in the country with patent pending status.
At the age of 12, Thomas, of Orefield, Pa., invented a competition or trick yo-yo having improved spin time. The central yoke of the yo-yo is magnetically supported for substantially frictionless rotation about the fixed axle. Consequently, the yo-yo is free to spin within the yoke for an extended period of time. The final review period for the patent by the United States Patent Office can take more than two years.
One of the most unique programs of its kind in the United States, the intensive eight-month Inventors Lab program introduces students in grades 5-8 to the invention process through hands-on activities and presentations by professional scientists and engineers.
Each year, 24 students are challenged to become entrepreneurs by defining a problem and solving it in a unique and novel way. They develop their own inventions between monthly Saturday morning sessions and present them before a panel of patent attorneys and experts during the Inventors Lab showcase in April. One student is selected each year for a chance to apply for a provisional patent with donated legal assistance. To obtain a U.S. patent, an invention must be unique, novel, and unknown to one skilled in the art.
More than 200 students have developed ideas since the program began in the fall of 2007, and now, seven showcase winners have submitted provisional patents. Two students, William Schopf of Whitehall, Pa., and Ambrose Cavalier of Saylorsburg, Pa., have earned full patents for their program inventions as teenagers; one for Schopf and two for Cavalier.
A provisional patent secures a one-year exclusivity period for the inventor to then file the application for a full patent. This protects the inventor’s idea from being claimed by anybody else while the full patent application is being prepared.
The program was founded by Frank K. Schweighardt, Ph.D., a Da Vinci Science Center trustee, retired Air Products chemist, and longtime student mentor. It was renamed the Frank Schweighardt Inventors Lab this May during the Science Center’s annual Hall of Fame Gala. Schweighardt also received this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Thomas’ application was made possible in part by patent services donated by Mark Rose, Esq., Senior Patent Council for Lutron Electronics.
Registration for the 2018-19 Inventors Lab is now open. Monthly Saturday morning sessions from 9 a.m. – noon will begin Sept. 22 and go through April 13, 2019. Open spots are filled on a first come, first served basis, and students must be in grades 5-8 in fall 2018.