On November On November 7, 2014, I attended the USPTO Smithsonian Innovation Festival at the National Air and Space Museum in DC. I was so impressed with the individual inventors that were showcasing their inventions that I decided to start a Spotlight On Inventors series on IPWatchdog. The series began on November 29th, with the inventor of The Skatecase, which is a a skateboard with built in storage. For the second installment in this series I have decided to showcase inventor, Christen Wooley, who also attended the Innovation Festival to showcase an invention that she created as an 11 year old, sixth grade student. Thanks to her forward thinking science teacher and the support of her parents, Christen was able to develop and patent a viable product that is now sold on the market!
I was thrilled to learn that Christen came up with her invention as part of her sixth grade science class. It is always wonderful to learn of circumstances where teachers push their student to think outside of the box, encouraging critical thinking and creativity and spurring innovation. As part of her sixth grade science class curriculum, Christen and her classmates were assigned a science project where they were to come up with a list of problems that people faced in every day lives. The students were then asked to choose one of those problems that they wanted to try to solve through innovation and invention.
Knowing that she and all of her friends dealt with carrying heavy back packs to school each and every day, she decided to try and invent something that would solve the physical problems that resulted from people carrying heavy pack each day.
I chose heavy backpacks as my problem to solve. I remember there being a brainstorming process as part of the assignment. I came up with several solutions, but ultimately decided on a vest/back pack combination that would help distribute the weight of the books best. I came up with the Vest back pack idea because my original idea would not have worked. I originally wanted to do a sort of Poncho look, with pockets all over it, but soon realized it probably wouldn’t be the best design to hold the weight of books. So in the end we did end up making the first Vestpakz, which we originally called Bookvest, with scrap material, in a vest/backpack form.
I asked Christen to tell us what prompted her to take her invention beyond the completion of her science project (which she ultimately score an A on). I also inquired if she had help in developing the invention and how she took it from a simple idea to a marketable invention.
After I invented the Vestpakz, my teacher thought it was such a unique idea that she entered it into the Houghton Mifflin National Invention Convention. Vestpakz won first place! Winning the Invention Convention sparked our initial dream of pursuing the Vestpakz. And yes, I absolutely had help developing the Vestpakz into a company! I am so blessed to have parents that could see beyond a 6th grader and her little class science project. They were vital in turning my dream into a reality! The first thing in the process was obtaining a patent, we started when I was 11 years old, but didn’t actually receive it until I was 13, so it was a very long process. Looking back I wasn’t entirely appreciative of the whole patent process, I was a kid, so I couldn’t really wrap my head around the whole thing. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized what an honor it was to hold a Patent from the United Stated Patent Office. Again, my parents were super involved in this whole thing and I could not have done it without them!
Christen currently holds one patent on her invention, US Patent 6,397,392, which issued on June 4, 2002 and is titled Pocketed Combination Vest Backpack. The Abstract of the invention states the following:
A pocketed vest or a combination vest and backpack garment for carrying school books, notebooks and other loads in a distributed manner such that the weight of the total load is relatively evenly proportioned relative to the front and back of the wearer, where the vest comprises a back body member joined to a pair of front body members, the front body members being releasably connectable, such that the combination of the back and front body members define a pair of arm openings, a neck opening and a waist opening. A relatively large volume rear pocket or compartment is mounted onto the back body member and a relatively large volume front pocket is mounted onto each of the front body members, with the front pockets occupying the majority portion of the front body members. The rear pocket has top, bottom and side panels such that the pocket has a three-dimensional interior. The combined volume of the front pockets is preferably substantially equal to the volume of the rear pocket, and all pockets have large openings to allow large items to be received therein.
The concept of her invention has basically stayed the same over the years. She has just added additional colors and sizes and has changed some of the materials they use. I asked her about her journey in taking her invention from prototype to market. She called it a long, incredible journey that has resulted in her Vetspakz currently being sold exclusively online at Eastsport.com.
This whole thing started when I was 11 years old, and I am now 27. It is so hard for small businesses to get their foot in the door these days, its almost nearly impossible! I think some people kind of expect things to happen overnight, but its like anything else in life, it takes time. My dad especially has been incredible! Its just tons of phone calls, lots of emails, and lots of door shut in your face.It would be really hard to give up, having so much rejection can be very discouraging, but getting it to the market takes persistence. Your going to have people tell you no.
Now, in an effort to try and take their product even farther, Christen’s father, Michael Wooley will appear on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” where he will be pitching the Vetspakz invention to “sharks” Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, Barbara Corcoran, Robert Herjavec and Kevin O’Leary. The episode airs this week on Tuesday, January 13 at 8pm ET.
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