'Mouth Magician' brings grins to winners' faces

Utah students take region honors with dental device

Published: Tuesday, March 23 2004 9:17 a.m. MST

The "Mouth Magician" toothbrush replacement system was invented by four Morningside Elementary students: Marcel Schreiber, left, Jordan King, center, Matthew Howitz, right, and Jacob McNeil (not pictured).

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News

Enlarge photo»

What began as no idea for a science project has turned into a bright idea that could make four Granite District sixth-graders $10,000 richer.

Morningside Elementary students Jacob McNeil, Matthew Howitz, Jordan King and Marcel Schreiber — creators of "The Mouth Magician" toothbrush replacement system — are among 24 regional team winners selected nationwide in the Toshiba/National Science Teachers Association ExploraVision Awards Program.

Nearly 4,400 teams entered the contest; about 550 are from Region 6, which includes Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

The Morningside team will compete for a first-place prize of a $10,000 savings bond for each student. Second-place teams receive $5,000 in savings bonds, and all get a free trip to Washington, D.C.

The regional win shocked the boys.

"I squealed," Howitz said, recalling when teacher Patti Tanner shared the news.

An awards ceremony at school today will honor the boys. Each received a digital camera, and Tanner got a laptop computer for the classroom — the second that students have won for her in as many years.

Tanner, a teacher in the school's gifted and talented magnet program, annually has students enter the contest, which seeks ideas for technologies that could exist 20 years in the future.

"The Mouth Magician" grew out of, well, no idea for the project.

"We thought all the good ones were taken and that we were going to lose," King said.

First, the boys thought of creating the "Super Nerd" — high-powered glasses with attached retractable braces for teeth.

Silly, but groundbreaking.

Then the boys hit upon the idea of using retainer trays, like those used for teeth, combined with nanotechnology to replace the toothbrush.

It's entirely feasible, a local dentist told them.

The Mouth Magician would be a tooth tray containing tiny plaque-attacking "nanobots." A user would fill the trays with a fluoride gel, mouthwash, bleach and anti-bacterial agents. Nanobots would spread the gel on the teeth, rinse them and return to an airtight area on the appliance. The Mouth Magician then would vibrate, telling the user it's done. The process would take about five minutes.

The device is based on nanotechnology — the science of manipulating the tiniest units of matter the size of about 1/100,000th the diameter of a hair. Last year, President Bush signed a bill to invest some $3.7 billion in nanotech research.

The students will have to create working Web sites to convey their ideas for the final round of judging, scheduled for May.

And if the boys win?

New cars for Schreiber and Howitz, who want to grow up to be a celebrity and golf pro, respectively.

But King was mum on how he'd spend the money. His mom, project mentor Barbara King, present for press interviews, had an idea:

"College, Jordan," she reminded him. "College!"


E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com

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