Meet the Inventors!

The Licker, Spider rendering.

19 February 2016


Harnessing the brainpower of more than 450 school children Dominic Wilcox, the artist, designer, and inventor behind Kellogg’s campaign to make breakfast more interesting, set about doing just that. Working alongside The Cultural Spring, an arts and culture project in Sunderland and South Tyneside, Dominic sparked children’s imaginations by having them sketch out ideas for their own inventions, before enlisting a team of local makers and manufacturers to bring them to life.

Speaking to the QEPrize, Dominic said “The INVENTORS! project has been a great success, not just in terms of the physical outcomes, but in the positive effect it has had on the children and the makers. The young inventors were amazed to see their imagination transformed into a real thing.”From over six hundred submitted drawings, sixty of the most promising were picked, before being taken to the Sunderland FabLab to meet their makers. After choosing their favourite sketches, the team then had just 4 weeks to turn the ideas into inventions.

Speaking of the design process, Dominic explained that the children were asked not only to draw a picture of their idea, but also to label the parts, describing what it does, what materials it is made from, and who would use it. “I wanted them to start thinking about the design and how it could work,” he said.

When their time was up all sixty inventions, whether conceptual mock-ups, three-dimensional renderings or functioning end products, were collected and displayed throughout January at a vacant shopfront on Sunderland’s Fawcett Street.

The variety of inventions that the FabLab makers helped to create was astounding, ranging from a 3d printed hook to retrieve the last Pringles from the tube (a long overdue invention we thought), to a giant furry spider that descends from the ceiling, waking you up with a big, sloppy lick across the face (luckily this was one which stayed as a conceptual 3D rendering!)."Children are born with a sense of invention, of thinking differently, and through lack of encouragement, this spark is lost. We wanted to show children that imagination and creativity is valued and valuable and that engineering, or making things, can take very different forms" said Rebecca Ball, Project Director of The Cultural Spring.“By putting an emphasis on fun and creativity, I am sure many of these young inventors have found a passion for innovation, problem-solving and creative thinking that will lead them to be the engineers and designers of our future world.” Dominic added.

Our personal favourite design from the whole project, however, had to be the self- watering plant pot drawn by ten-year-old inventor Kaja Jach, and brought to life by maker Brian Degger. Described by its designer as being an invention for everyone, Kaja explains that the pot is fitted with an electronic device that detects when its plant is thirsty, automatically delivering water to the roots; and even comes complete with its own light source, preventing even the least green-fingered from killing their plants!

And it looks as though technology is the go-to solution for this common problem; check out one of our #EverydayEngineers, Charly Kuehnast, who developed a similar autonomous watering device, the PomodoPi, to keep his tomato plants alive while away on holiday.

To see the full INVENTORS! gallery, visit

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