Irvine and Tustin students showcase their ‘Astounding Inventions’ at Irvine Valley College

Tustin student Matthew Hsieh displays his Tackle Tamer prototype at the 31st annual Astounding Inventions competition on Jan. 27. The event, held at Irvine Valley College, featured 378 inventions.

Will “Staircase Friendly Rolling Backpacks” be the next big thing?

What about the “Go Go Scooter,” the “Temperature Regulating Blanket” or the “Pony Tail Helper”?

Tackling everything from casual annoyances to challenges facing the aerospace and medical industries, hundreds of young inventors from Irvine and Tustin schools were given an opportunity on a recent Saturday to pitch their innovative creations at Irvine Valley College’s 31st annual Astounding Inventions competition.

As part of its title sponsorship, Knobbe Martens Olson & Bear, LLC will write a patent application on behalf of two Astounding Inventions projects.

The Jan. 27 event, sponsored by Cox Communications and presented by Knobbe Martens Olson & Bear, LLC and the Irvine Valley College Foundation, drew more than 400 students from kindergarten through the eighth grade, packing IVC’s Hart Gymnasium with 378 inventions, ranging from whimsical conveniences to problem-solving innovations. 

They included a fire-fighting robot, a water saving faucet, a scalable rocket recovery system, a child-tracker safety system and vacuum shoe, according to the Irvine Unified School District.

IVC held its first Astounding Inventions competition back in 1987 with the goal of sparking creativity and generating interest in science, technology, engineering and math, otherwise known as the STEM fields. Since then, the event seems to grow larger each year, and the projects more advanced.

In the fall, nearly 4,000 students from 58 schools in the Irvine and Tustin unified school districts submitted their prototypes and displays in local school contests, which narrowed the field to about 450 finalists. 

Those that made it to Irvine Valley College competed for $10,000 in cash prizes, along with certificates of achievement and ribbons. Their inventions, accompanied by written descriptions and illustrations, were grouped by grade level and judged on originality and usefulness by 60 representatives from the scientific, education, civic and business communities.

Astounding Inventions winners often go on to compete in state and national competitions, but there’s another big incentive to enter. As part of its title sponsorship, Knobbe Martens plans to perform a pro bono patent search — and write a provisional application — on behalf of two viable student inventions.

Those are expected to be announced sometime this month.