Looking for a better mousetrap? A machine to mix your Alka-Seltzer? A rude awakening?
All are available this weekend at the Boston Museum of Science, where some of America's most inventive - if not practical - young minds are showing off some of their creations."You could set this thing up by the bed before going out on Saturday night and crank it up first thing in the morning," said Brian Langan of Newton, Mass., the 12-year-old co-creator of the automated Alka Seltzer To Go machine. "It could really catch on."
To Brian's left, John Dodson demonstrated his mouse exterminator.
"The mouse smells the cheese and runs up the plank," the elementary school student said. "When he does, it sets off a whole series of reactions that ends right here, with this one-pound weight dropping on his head."
The "Wacky Waker-Upper" designed by Mike Shields, Dan Pozen and Eric Osterberg was a natural crowd-pleaser.
The alarm clock reels in a string which triggers a pulley that opens a door, Pozen explained.
"And the ball flies out the chute to hit you in the face. It really works," the 12-year-old said, gesturing toward the cot where Osterberg was stretched out and ready to receive another bonk on the forehead.
Charles Chiotelis, a 69-year-old former teacher from Lincoln, Mass., watched as the students pitched their projects.
"It's all about showmanship," said Chiotelis, who in his retirement has marketed a few of his own inventions. "It's learning to make the invention colorful, interesting. These contraptions may not be very practical now, but you may have a superengineer of the 21st century among these students."
Nurturing young talent is the whole point of the 11th annual Inventors Weekend Exhibition, which provides a showcase for 80 adolescent New Englanders, plus a few of their elders.
"It's important to try and spark students, to encourage them to see new ways of doing things," said Priscilla Korell, who represented the Boston Edison Co. on a panel of exhibition co-sponsors that included the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Inventors Association of New England.
Across the room from their younger counterparts were the exhibition's more seasoned inventors.
Herb Brown said he hadn't yet tried his Galvanic Electro-Fish under real conditions to see whether the artificial bait's electric field would attract fish. But tests in his homemade tank were promising, he said.