Several elementary aged students will represent Ottumwa in Iowa City next week during the Invent Iowa championships. Yet the idea for a snowball maker nearly melted away as quickly as the dusting of snow Ottumwa received this weekend.
“LEGO League is such a time commitment. Plus she plays basketball and softball; when she asked about an invention I told her, there’s only so much time,” said Ottumwa school district mom Amy Crouse-Spurgeon.
A call from a teacher changed Mom’s mind; she allowed her Eisenhower fifth-grade student, Camdyn Crouse, 11, to enter a local invention fair. When Camdyn’s invention took a top prize, Crouse-Spurgeon was glad she had let the teacher and her daughter change her mind.
Besides helping run the family business at the hardware store, O’Hara spent decades as a school teacher. Yes, there’s such a thing as being realistic with a family’s schedule, but when a child really has enthusiasm for something, and is willing to do the work, O’Hara said, “You don’t want to step on that dream.”
That mindset, along with her experience as a middle school teacher and a businesswoman made her uniquely suited to comment on the snowball press. Crouse-Spurgeon had brought Camdyn there after school Monday to give a short presentation on her invention. The experience will go into her inventor’s log.
The inventor talked about her new product website www.crouseindustries.weebly.com and the patent search she did. She found some interesting snowball makers —including winter gloves with a mold for pressing an instant snowball.
“But they all made one snowball,” Camdyn said.
The North Pole Snowball Maker prototype makes 10 at a time. It has a wooden frame, metal hinges and, for the shaping and pressing, halved tennis balls. The first design didn’t work. The end design being demonstrated at the business Monday was field tested in the snow, and worked great, the inventor said. As a business person, O’Hara could see a manufacturer picking up the prototype. The educator in her, however, also saw all the lessons the child was exposed to.
“You can tell you’re a perfectionist,” said O’Hara. “That you start something and keep at it.”
Crouse-Spurgeon said her daughter takes charge when working on a project. Softball and basketball give her some exposure to working as part of a team. But projects like this often see her working without a partner — by choice. O’Hara acknowledged that there are times one has a vision, wants the job done right and benefits from starting on their own. But as an experienced teacher, she told the young inventor, she knows Camdyn will need to work with a partner at times: While it’s one of the “learnings” encouraged in many schools, teamwork may help share the girl’s talent: O’Hara told her the girl’s drive, organizational skills and ability to problem solve could rub off on her peers.
“You have great time management skills,” said O’Hara, “which [includes] not putting something off until the last minute.”
She wished the family luck in Iowa City. Yet after they left the store, O’Hara said the girl has already had a success.
“She ran into all those roadblocks, and still completed her product.”