Teenage Inventor Rebecca Hyndman Discusses Patents, Inventing, High School and President Obama

Rebecca (left) watches President Obama sign the America Invents Act into law.

On September 17, 2011, I attended the Signing of the America Invents Act at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.  A young lady named Rebecca Hyndman, who is a senior at the high school, introduced President Obama, which took place immediately prior to his signing the Act into law.  Rebecca was chosen for this honor because at the age of just 14 she acquired a patent for her own innovation.  Recently, I ran into her father, Kelly Hyndman, at another IP event.  While discussing the AIA signing ceremony, I asked Mr. Hyndman if he would mind my interviewing his daughter for our blog.  With his blessing I conducted the following Interview via email, which I received back from Rebecca at the end of November.  Unfortunately, as many of you know, I had to have emergency spinal fusion surgery and was unable to publish her interview prior to now.

So (as Gene likes to say) without further ado, here is my interview with Rebecca.

Renée  Where did you grow up, how old are you and what grade are you in?

Rebecca – I grew up in Loudoun County Virginia, I am 18 years old and a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

Fig. 10 from Rebecca's Patent

Renée  What is your invention?

Rebecca – My invention is to have containers with floor tiles for lids rest on the wooden floor joists with a system of troughs for catching water. The containers are removable from the floor. The invention would be useful for maximizing use of vertical space in bathrooms and kitchens.

Renée – What is your patent name and number and what date was your patent issued?

Rebecca – My patent number is 7,726,080.  The title of the invention is Under Floor Storage.  I filed my patent on January 4th, 2008 and it was granted on June 1st, 2010.

Renée  What made you think of your invention?  What problem(s) were you trying to find a solution to?

Rebecca  I was staring at the bathroom floor etc. I imagined a container under every “floor tile” (which is actually linoleum in my bathroom, to be specific, but that doesn’t really matter). I was kind of just tired and staring into space, thinking. I wasn’t actively trying to solve any pressing problem, but thought of the idea and what it would solve at the same time.

Renée  What did you learn about the patent process as an inventor and were you happy with the process?

Rebecca  I learned about the patent process because my dad is a patent attorney, and was happy with the process.

Renée  Did you represent yourself during your examiner interview or did an attorney do it for you?

Rebecca  My attorney came with me, but the discussion was mainly between the examiner and me. I needed my attorney since I couldn’t drive yet. (Note Rebecca was only 14 when she filed her patent in 2008)

Renée  What have you done with your invention since you created it?  Are you selling it, did you license it to others, etc.

Rebecca  I am further developing it so that I can build it. This consists of figuring out specifics such as material and better methods of waterproofing the system. It’s just a general process of thinking of all the things I didn’t cover originally that could potentially lead to problems. For example, for the new design, it will no longer be possible for someone to fall through the floor after the container has been removed from it.

Renée  Are you working on any new inventions currently? You don’t have to tell us what they are if you need to keep it confidential at this stage.

Rebecca  Yes. They will all take longer than I expected, however, because I keep learning reasons why my plans would not work.

Renée  Do you feel that getting a patent at such a young age has helped you in high school?

Rebecca Getting a patent in itself hasn’t helped, but the aspiration to invent has helped me. I have several ideas for future inventing projects, and when I learn about something in school that could potentially apply to my idea, it makes me more motivated to study it, even if it is complicated. The idea of getting a patent as a reward for creating an invention does play a role in inspiring me to invent, but if patents did not exist, I would still invent things.

Renée  What was it like being chosen to introduce the President of the United States for the signing of the America Invents Act into Law at your school, which you also had the pleasure of witnessing while standing right by his side?

Rebecca – It was cool. My dad had heard he was coming to TJ to sign the Act, and asked if maybe I could help in any way, since I have a patent. My principal walked into my BC Calc class the Thursday before Obama visited, and I expected it had something to do with the Obama visit. I soon learned that the White House staff had selected me to introduce Obama. I was nervous when I learned this, because I am actually rather shy. I consented, though, and went through with the process. I practiced a whole lot, and it all worked out.

Renée  Do you feel your high school, which so stresses science and technology, has prepared you for college or for a career more than a traditional high school may have?

Rebecca  Definitely. Post-AP courses are a big part of this, because they teach students how to use instruments. TJ also has mentorship programs with places like NIH, and encourages students to apply for internships. The environment of the school is also helpful. Upperclassmen help underclassmen and help “direct their paths.” Senior research projects also help us focus on real-world applications of our academic knowledge.

Renée  Did you get the opportunity to talk to President Obama one on one either before or after the signing of the America Invents Act?

Rebecca  Yes. He entered the building through the wrestling room with press and his bodyguards. He met our principal, and then our SGA president. He asked her what she wants to study. She said she wants to be an engineer. He said, “We need engineers.” He asked me what I want to study. I said biochemistry. He did not say that we need biochemists, but I still plan to become one, or something similar. He then said something like, “So I heard there was someone with a patent?” It was pointed out that it was me. I then explained and showed my patent to him.

Renée What’s next for you?  Have you decided on a college and career, or do you not yet know what you want to be “when you grow up?”

Rebecca  I have not replied to any college, though I have been accepted by two so far. I want to study biochemistry, because I like chemistry, and biochemistry would help me be more versatile.

Renée  Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Rebecca  I keep an inventor’s notebook. I recommend that for anyone who is an inventor.



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Join the Discussion

10 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for Stan E. Delo]
    Stan E. Delo
    January 19, 2012 05:53 pm

    Hi Renee`

    As regards typos, very creative folks tend to make them Way more often than *normal* folks. I have taken lately to writing my replies using my Create Mail function so that I can compose and then spell check before I copy and paste it to wherever needs be. My worst problem seems to be omitting words for some reason, especially when I am really passionate about something. It also allows me to reconsider if I really want to post a particular message, and have a second look before I hit the submit button.

    You only get one chance to create a good first impression many times, so I tend to be a bit careful in that regard these days. I saw the photo from a few days back, and it looks like you probably won’t even hardly have a scar after only three weeks? Be careful though, until the bones have had a chance to solidly knit together. I have been snowed in for about 4 days, with many opportunities to slip and fall, which I really don’t need right about now.


  • [Avatar for Renee C. Quinn]
    Renee C. Quinn
    January 19, 2012 12:49 pm


    As always, thank you for reading IPWatchdog and taking the time to post. No worries on the typo. Lord knows (as do quite a few IPW readers) I make them too! Rebecca really is creative and that mixed with her science degree she will likely make a difference in the world. I encouraged her and her father to share this story with all of her friends and family members. Hopefully other young inventors will benefit and be motivated by Rebecca’s story.


  • [Avatar for Renee C. Quinn]
    Renee C. Quinn
    January 19, 2012 12:46 pm


    Thank you for reading IPWatchdog and taking the time to post. I agree, she does ‘Get it.” I’ve met her father as well and he is quite proud of his daughter’s accomplishments.


  • [Avatar for Renee C. Quinn]
    Renee C. Quinn
    January 19, 2012 12:44 pm


    As always, thank you for reading IPWatchdog and taking the time to post. I’ll be sure to make sure Rebecca sees your comment. As I told Steve, I thought Rebecca was quite a remarkable young lady and her story was a fun one to tell.

    Thanks again,. Also, if you have not already done so, please “Like” our IPWatchdog FB page as well.

    Thanks again,


  • [Avatar for Renee C. Quinn]
    Renee C. Quinn
    January 19, 2012 12:41 pm

    Steve M-

    As always, thank you for reading IPWatchdog and taking the time to post. The point of this post was to encourage other young inventors that ideas, can turn into inventions and their inventions could potentially be protected. When I saw Rebecca introduce President Obama at the signing America Invents Act, I found her to be quite dynamic, intelligent and funny. I thought our readers would enjoy her story.

    As for me, thank you so very much for asking. I am doing quite well. I’ve been stiff in the neck and shoulders the past few mornings, but otherwise doing really well. I’ll be posting an update photo today on my FB page: http://www.facebook.com/TheSocialMediaDiva. Also, if you have not already done so, please “Like” our IPWatchdog FB page as well.

    Thanks again,


  • [Avatar for EG]
    January 16, 2012 12:53 pm


    Sorry, my first sentence should read: Great story, one that any school age kid should read. Sometimes, my brain and my word processing fingers don’t connect.

  • [Avatar for EG]
    January 16, 2012 12:52 pm


    Great story, one that any school age kid you read. And congratulations to Rebecca (like me, the progeny of a patent attorney), and especially the fact that she plans to study biochemistry. We need more kids like Rebecca who like science and are innovative, creative, and inventive.

  • [Avatar for Roland]
    January 15, 2012 08:17 pm

    Now there is one young lady who really understands what her father does, I wonder how many of us can say the same? I know I can’t.

  • [Avatar for Stan E. Delo]
    Stan E. Delo
    January 15, 2012 04:52 pm

    Congratulations Rebecca-

    Looks like a great invention to me, for a couple of reasons. First of all it is reasonably simple to manufacture which is more than I can say for some of my ideas. The guy that invented those little plastic bread bag closure tabs here in Washington state did Very well with them, earning a few million in just a few years before he got upstaged by a British patent that proceeded his that was similar but made of heavy card stock. That was an exceptional case of course, but perhaps you can can see what I am getting at.

    Also folks wouldn’t have to store things that aren’t needed very often in a cluttered basement or attic, where they can sometimes be difficult to get to and/or find, and freeing up useful floor space in the house for other purposes. Perhaps you have thought of this, but a potential market for you might be home improvement stores like Home Depot or Lowes for instance, so folks could incorporate your system when remodeling their homes. Bathrooms tend to get remodeled a lot like kitchens, or extra new rooms added like for a new office space for instance.

    All the best and keep on inventing!
    It’s really fun!

  • [Avatar for Steve M]
    Steve M
    January 15, 2012 01:47 pm

    Good for Rebecca; hope she does well with her invention (and any others she comes up with).

    Shows that anyone can invent–even teenagers.

    Nice idea for an article/blog post; should be especially encouraging for all the younger inventors out there.

    May I ask how you’re feeling these days, Renee?