Category Archives: Edison Nation Team

protoTYPING: Jeremy’s First Maker Faire Experience

Charlotte’s Mini Maker Faire: The Greatest Show and Tell on Earth comes to the Queen City

I used to be addicted to the magazine section of Barnes and Noble. I loved the way the racks were angled just enough so that you were not quite sure how to walk through them. I loved how when you blurred your eyes you could see the spectrum shift from the whites, pinks, and yellows of Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire fade to the greens of High Times and Fine Gardening to the blues, blacks, and reds of Motor Trend and Wired. I loved picking up a fresh issue, you know, the one just behind the one on top, holding it to my nose, and flipping the pages with my thumb to release the perfume of the ink-infused pages. Far from the children’s section, and just a few feet from the souls tip-toeing through the self-help titles, it was both a safe haven and a bounty of images and ideas that tickled my senses.

When I moved to North Carolina almost 10 years ago, my apartment was only 1/4 mile from the Barnes and Noble. It was a distance I was too happy to walk to get my fix. Fortunately it was adjacent to a Total Wine store with an awesome beer selection, making it my de facto journey on a Friday night. After fingering my way through the racing and automotive section, I was always drawn to a magazine called Make. It was an enigma on the newsstand as it was thick with small pages and had barely any ads. At the time it was super expensive and only came out quarterly, but I would always buy it because it was filled with all kinds of great hacks and experiments that you could do in your garage, kitchen or living room. While I didn’t necessarily do any of the activities myself, it felt just as fun seeing the crazy things other people were up to.

Fast forward to the present day, and the niche little publication has become the mainstream, dominant voice of the maker movement. The magazine continues on as a monthly (with regular size pages), and is the flagship of Maker Media, which includes the Maker Shed store and events called Maker Faires. Maker Faires are self titled “The Greatest Show and Tell on Earth”, and play like a science fair on steroids. There are two big ones that are held in San Francisco and New York, and the first one was held in 2006. Now there are Mini Maker Faires hosted in cities all over the world. I have been trying to fabricate a reason to attend the New York Maker Faire for years, but have yet to pull it off. However, the first Mini Maker Faire in Charlotte was held this October, and I jumped at the chance to go.

Charlotte's Mini Maker Faire

The Mini Maker Faire Charlotte was held at Discovery Place, which is an awesome science museum in the heart of the city. The exhibits were spread out over three floors in the museum, and there were different events and speakers running throughout the day. The atmosphere was electric as the museum was open concurrently with the Mini Maker Faire and the place was teeming with people. There were also exhibitors setup on Tryon Street adjacent to the museum, which was closed to traffic for the day. Unfortunately, it was a rainy day which tempered the excitement for the outdoor activities. Despite the miserable weather it was an inspiring event with lots of great makers showing off their work. Here are some of my favorite exhibits from the Charlotte Maker Faire.

3D Printed Vehicles

There were two notable 3D printed vehicles on display. The most eye catching was the 3D printed Shelby Cobra exhibited by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. While made by industry pros, it was still a site to behold. Anyone that has tried to sand and paint their own 3D prints will appreciate the finish on the Cobra. Fittingly for the home city of the US National Whitewater Center, there was also the world’s first water ready 3D printed kayak. It was made by Jim Smith, an employee at 3D Systems. He built his own large format printer and made the kayak in 28 parts that were bolted together.

3D printed Shelby Cobra

The 3D printed Shelby Cobra made by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Competitive Robots

Competitive robots are a hot trend in the maker space and they were out in full force. The most interesting to me was the Charlotte FPV (first person view) Racing League. They race flying drones in a field on the outskirts of the city, and they were showing off their custom carbon fiber race drones. There were also two live robot competition areas. One featured small versions of the fighting robots you see on TV. The other was a robot hockey arena where two teams of kids were battling to get a puck into the other team’s net.

Mini battle bots compete at the Mini Maker Faire

Mini battle bots in competition

Maker/Hacker Spaces

Maker spaces are popping up in cities all over the world and the local chapters were out in force at the Charlotte Mini Maker Faire. The Forge from Greensboro, NC, TinkerIt from Mooresville, NC, and Hackerspace Charlotte were all showing off their hacked creations. Hackerspace Charlotte hosted a workshop at the event to teach kids how to build circuits and solder.

Charlotte Hackers teaching children how to build

The Charlotte Hackerspace doing an electronics workshop.


There were many exhibits showing how to “make” life. The hosts, Discovery Place, had an exhibit showing how to grow baby tree frogs, including raising flies for them to eat. They also were showing how they raise baby jellyfish for their aquarium. There was also a local farmer on hand to show how to make honey.


Fashion designers were also in on the fun at Mini Maker Faire. Students from the Charlotte Art Institute created a line of clothing from discarded goods. Their EcoFab Trash Couture took center stage during a fashion show where models wore pieces made from old paint brushes, condoms and other trash to show how sustainability can also be haute couture.

Makers can be fashionable

A model showing off an EcoFab Trash couture dress.

My first trip to a Maker Faire event was a long time in coming, but well worth the wait. I was drinking from a fire hose seeing all of the great projects and exhibits. While disclosure issues may deter you from exhibiting your next great idea at your local Maker Faire, they are well worth the trip to network and get tips on how and where you might be able to build your next prototype. I hope that this will be an annual event in the Queen City, and maybe next time I will show off some of my own creations.

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Four steps to kicking off your design project – fast!

Make like an Edison Nation designer and take note of these four steps to kickstart your design process.

So you’ve got an idea for an invention that needs some “fleshing out”. What does the design look like? What is it made of? How big is it? Where to begin? Starting the design process can be daunting, even if you’ve done it a thousand times before. As the lead designer of Edison Nation’s “As Seen on TV” product division, I like to get started by walking myself through an inspirational process that goes a little something like this:

Step 1: Surf’s up

Scour the web for anything and everything relevant to your idea. The world is literally at your fingertips. Without leaving your desk, you can check out similar products and their reviews, read blogs to learn about the type of person who might use your invention, watch videos of the problem you’re trying to solve and so on. Save anything and everything that inspires you. Using a site like Pinterest can help you to organize all of these virtual-inspirations in one place. Or, go old school and print things out to make an actual “inspiration board” like the ones below found in Enventys‘ engineering and design space. 

Inspiration boards

Step 2: Magic Schoolbus-it!

This one is my personal favorite. Remember the Magic Schoolbus series? Anyone? Crickets? In these nostalgic books, a wacky teacher took kids on crazy adventures all over space and time aboard a magic bus. Take your idea on that ride, too! Momentarily imagine your completed invention in 5 or 6 very different places: on the moon, under water, in the desert, in ancient Egypt. How would it look and feel different in each of those places? How would it need to change to work correctly in all of those places? Would certain pieces become unnecessary? Is there a piece that has to be metal instead of plastic? Would it need to be taller, thinner? Envisioning these unusual adaptations of your invention will help you to zero-in on which traits are the most important, and will help you determine what factors should drive your material choices for different components. Jot down these thoughts and keep them in mind as you work through the next steps.

Magic School Bus

The Magic School Bus TM is a trademark of Scholastic, Inc and is in no way affiliated with Edison Nation

Step 3: Get Touchy-Feely

Don’t just look for things that inspire you visually – think about textures, sounds, smells, even temperatures that apply to your concept. A fabric swatch, a piece of tin foil, sandpaper, a smelly marker… all of these are great examples of sensory cues that can inspire the way your invention is experienced by users. For anything tangible, create a collection of these physical things in one place. You don’t have to go all out and make a whole inspiration board… even a Ziploc bag or a section of a bulletin board can serve the same purpose.

Get touchy feely with various textures and shapes

Step 4: Get out!!

Seriously, get out. Leave your surroundings. Often times, I’ve become so stumped on a design project that I give up and head out to get coffee or run an errand to get my mind off things. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve inadvertently found my solution on these trips out of the office. The way a knob turns on a parking meter, the heat of a coffee cup dissipated by a cardboard sleeve… inspiration is everywhere! Either the design-gods happened to align for me in those moments at Starbucks -OR- getting out of a solitary bubble is absolutely key to the creative process. Either way, I’ll take it!

Screen shot 2015-10-21 at 12.26.56 PM

Have you ever thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if…”?

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protoTYPING: Tips to help you make a better product pitch

No matter how good an idea, your chance at success may hinge on the quality of your product pitch

On the last weekend in September, the Edison Nation and Enventys teams headed to the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth, Ga., for the Amazon Inventions Tour. It was a great event for inventors to make their product pitch, network and listen to great speakers. Inventors with mature ideas or inventory made their product pitch to Amazon to get approved for the new Amazon Launchpad platform. In a different part of building, inventors that were still in the idea or prototyping stage pitched ideas to the Edison Nation team in hopes of landing a licensing deal. There were great speakers talking about all different aspects of product development and inventing, including Tom Charron from 3D Systems, Anthony Knight from the USPTO, Kate Drane from Indiegogo, and even Edison Nation superstar inventor Eric Huber. There was even a mixer on Friday night hosted by Budweiser which was a fantastic time to network.

Amazon Inventions Tour Entrance

While the Edison Nation and Enventys design teams are usually hard at work at the home office in Charlotte, we took a few days off to join the panels to review the ideas submitted to the event. We piled into a few cars on Thursday afternoon, my team packing four grown men in a Jetta TDI, and made the short four-hour journey to Atlanta. On Friday and Saturday we split up into American Idol style judging teams comprising at least one team member from the different disciplines like industrial design, licensing and engineering. We were setup behind dramatic black-clothed tables in rooms that were big enough to host a soccer match, and gave inventors at least seven minutes to show us their ideas and make their product pitch.

Doug Doolen, Rae McNeil, Carlos Perez and Scott Dromms made up one panel room at the Amazon Inventions Tour

Doug Doolen, Rae McNeil, Carlos Perez and Scott Dromms made up one panel room at the Amazon Inventions Tour

After two days of hearing numerous pitches I noticed that despite all of the inventors having immense passion for their ideas, not all of them did an equally good job of communicating their innovations. No matter how good an idea, the chances of getting investors, landing a licensing deal, or even selling product at a trade show may hinge on the quality of your product pitch. Here are a few pointers to make your next pitch better.

Don’t Bury the Lead

By far the most frustrating mistake that was made during pitches was not explaining what the product was early in the presentation. There were many times that after five minutes of explanation, I still had no idea what the product was or what it did, which left little time after that to get caught up. Fortunately, the judging team was skilled and kind enough to ask probing questions and extract the idea, but other groups or audiences may not be so forgiving. A great way to pitch a mouse trap would be to say, “I became frustrated by mice running through my house, so I designed a device to trap them. It has a wooden base with a spring loaded gate and a food tray. When the mouse steps on the food tray, the spring releases the gate and it unwinds rapidly, killing the mouse.” You need to quickly and concisely state the problem and your proposed solution as early as possible in the product pitch to keep your audience interested.

Back Story is OK, but in Moderation

Every product that makes it to market has an interesting story. There are bins full of prototypes, the magical trip to the hardware store that saved the day, and that time it almost burned down the garage. The trials and tribulations of the process is what makes inventing and product development so much fun. These stories are great fun when sharing with family or fellow inventors, but can be a drag on a pitch. Back stories can add flavor and context, but when speaking to someone unfamiliar with the product, it needs to stay high level and be really interesting to avoid losing their attention. James Dyson made 5127 prototypes before he came up with the bagless vacuum cleaner, but if you had to sit in a room and listen to a story about each one you would lose your mind. Back to the mouse trap, a good back story might be, “My wife and I like to pop cheese curds while practicing our ballroom dancing at home. One day a mouse scampered through the living room towards our cheese bowl. My wife freaked out mid Foxtrot and stepped on my toe so hard that I fell over and crashed into the lamp. I had to go to the ER and get four stitches on my forehead. After that I knew I had to find a way to get the mice.”

Rehearse Your Product Pitch

No activity performed well is done without practice, and this goes for pitching a product, too. One of the best pitches I saw at the event was a gentleman who came in with an idea for exercise equipment. The product was novel, but the presentation was outstanding. In just four minutes he talked through the history of the product and its benefits all while doing about 20 different exercises. He was a fit guy, but by the end he was sweating. Most importantly the panel had a crystal clear picture of his concept and had very few questions. It was clear he had practiced the routine a number of times and it helped communicate his concept clearly. Of course not everyone has great charisma or knack with words, but rehearsing your pitch will help you understand your own concept better and give you the confidence to communicate the idea clearly.

Prototypes are Gold

You could pitch a product to someone who does not speak your language and it would likely still go well if you have a prototype to help tell the story. Seeing an idea born in three dimensions is immensely helpful in communicating a new innovation. The ultimate is a prototype that functions perfectly and looks like a finished product, but much simpler prototypes can be just as compelling. Having a prototype shows that you have put forth significant thought into the form and function of the innovation, even if it is made from simple household materials like paper, wood, or PVC. Just make sure to transport the prototype in an opaque package so as not to accidentally have a public disclosure, and make sure if it requires a consumable like water or batteries that you have spares on hand to replenish.

Giving a pitch is a nerve wracking experience. It can feel like the stakes are high and that your idea will live or die based on how well the product pitch goes. However, with plenty of practice and a prototype in hand you will maximize your chances for a positive result from the meeting.

Have you ever thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if…”?

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The Amazon Inventions Tour Recap

Couldn’t make it to Atlanta for the Amazon Inventions Tour?

We’ve got you covered.

Here’s a recap of the innovators, startups and teams that brought it all together.

Edison Nation teamed up with Amazon to host the first ever Amazon Inventions Tour that took place this past weekend in Atlanta (Friday, 9/25 and Saturday, 9/26). Innovators and startups from all over traveled by car, plane and Greyhound bus to get to Atlanta. Just how far did they come? We’re glad you asked. Here’s a handy heat map:

Where in the world did our inventors travel from?

Where in the world did our inventors travel from?

Clifford May with his son

Clifford May and his family road tripped all the way from Arkansas to Atlanta.

Sheila didn't let popemania get in the way of her trip to Atlanta.

Shelia Cockburns Chinatown bus from New York City was delayed by Pope Francis’ visit, but even #Popemania couldn’t keep her from Atlanta.

Friends and inventors Adam Adams and Bill Ward

Adam Adams flew from San Francisco to meet his friend and inventing partner, Bill Ward in Atlanta.

On Friday morning at 7am, the doors opened to the Amazon Inventions Tour. All attending innovators and startups were asked to first check in at registration where Michelle Sartori and myself greeted each one and handed out individual presentation times.

Entrance to the Amazon Inventions Tour

Entrance to the Amazon Inventions Tour

Upon check-in, all of our attendees were invited to listen in on Friday’s lineup of speakers, which included Tom Charron from 3D Systems, Mitch Cohen from PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Suzanne Oldham from Suzanne Oldham Consulting, Matthew Hoffman from Greenberg Traurig, Jessica Mindich from the Caliber Collection, Geert Christiaansen from Philips Design, Paul Earle from Farmhouse, Louis Foreman from Edison Nation, Jim Irvine from Cyndx Advisors, Dr. Jean Wright, M.D. from Carolinas HealthCare System, Bradley Leong from Tandem Capital, Dan Dimezza from Sequential Brands Group, Jason Feldman from Amazon, Jonathan Wood from Bridgestone Americas, Marco Carvalho from Toys Talk and Renee Finley from GuideWell.

The weekend’s full speaker series was sponsored by Philips.

Geert Christiaansen Senior Director Design Innovation, Philips Design, talks to the crowd.

Geert Christiaansen, Senior Director Design Innovation, Philips Design, talks to the crowd.

Amazon's Head of Global Innovation, Jason Feldman, shares how customers come first at Amazon

Amazon’s Head of Global Innovation, Jason Feldman, shares how customers come first at Amazon.

CEO of Toys Talk, Marco Carvalho talks toys to the group

CEO of Toys Talk, Marco Carvalho talks toys to the group.

On Friday evening, event sponsor Budweiser hosted the “Budweiser Brew House” happy hour and networking reception for all. Attending innovators and startups were invited to enjoy free drinks and food, as well as the chance to catch up with the Edison Nation team, meet the Amazon innovation team and participating speakers and sponsors.

IMG_5459_edited-1 IMG_5445_edited-1

Cold beer tasted awfully nice for those innovators and startups who made it through the first day of pitching and presenting. If eating and drinking wasn’t your thing, you could network, play Cornhole and spark conversations with those around.


Indiegogo's Kate Drane talks to the crowd about what makes for a successful crowdfunding campaign.

Indiegogo’s Kate Drane talks to the crowd about what makes for a successful crowdfunding campaign.

Saturday kicked off a new day of pitches, presentations and speakers. On the line up? David Donovick from Pivotal Living, Dipanjan Nag from Prediqtus, Craig Sampson from Farmhouse, Peter Hardigan from Theranova, David Harkins from the Boy Scouts of America, Erik Feingold from Sharecare, Tony Knight from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Jill Schmidt from JillSchmidt PR, Kate Drane from Indiegogo, Greg Johnson from Orbital Socket, Chris McIntire from Agent Authority, Milton Tjin from United Sales and Marketing, Kristi Gorinas from the Kristi G Company, Kimberly Duva from Amazon Media Group, Eric Huber from Edison Nation, Nicholas Chaillan from Nesting Partners, Brandon Adams from the University of Young Entrepreneurs, with closing remarks and a Q&A with Jason Feldman of Amazon.

Greg Johnson shares his insights.

Greg Johnson shares his insights from Orbital Socket.

Kristi Gorinas tells her story of being a mompreneur inventor

Kristi Gorinas tells her story of being a mompreneur inventor.

Eric Huber shares how to come up with your own "aha!" moment

Eric Huber shares how to come up with your own “aha!” moment.

While the Philips Speakers Series was happening in Hall A, innovators and startups were quietly being called back to make their pitches and presentations to either the Edison Nation or Amazon teams. We queued up inventors five to eight at a time, and they got to know each other in a short line outside of the presentation rooms.

Innovators wait outside their respective pitch rooms.

Innovators waiting outside their respective pitch rooms.


Each pitch room had four judges waiting to hear about that innovator’s great idea. Upon arriving into the room, each individual had about two minutes to prep their invention, five minutes to present, as well as some closing time for dialogue with the judges.

This father and son inventing duo walked out of their pitch looking impossibly fresh, don’t you think?

Father & son inventing pair at the Amazon Inventions Tour.

Amazon’s head of global innovation, Jason Feldman, took the stage for the final presentation on Saturday evening. As he wrapped up his talk, he kicked off a Q&A with the crowd. To everyone’s delight, the first question asked was, “This event was awesome. When and where will you do it again?”

Amazon's Jason Feldman closes the weekend with a presentation and Q&A.

Amazon’s Jason Feldman closes the weekend with a presentation and Q&A.

Stay tuned to the blog for updates from the first Amazon Inventions Tour, as well as plans for future events with Amazon. In the meantime, if you have a bright idea to share, Edison Nation is always on the lookout no matter where you are!

Have you ever thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if…”?

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protoTYPING: Popping crisp and fresh collars with the Perky Collar

Everyone wants to look their best with minimal effort, which makes clothing and clothing care ripe for innovation. Local Charlotte inventor, David Frankel, was frustrated that the collars of his shirts were always drooping, and he knew there had to be a way to keep his collar looking crisp and fresh all day long. His frustration led him to create the Perky Collar support system to stop droopy collars. He chose Enventys to help him work out the details of the product and I was on the team that helped bring it to life. After more than a year of work, the Perky Collar is now on the market.

Perky Collar

The Perky Collar

David Frankel is a first time inventor, but an experienced entrepreneur. He is the father of six children, and his first business out of college was a family portrait photo studio. He is a soccer enthusiast and the founder of The 3V3 Soccer Academy with 6 locations in the greater Charlotte area. His lightning bolt moment came one morning while getting dressed up for a meeting. He was going to wear a collared shirt under a blazer. He noticed that without the structure of the tie under the collar that it kept sliding under the blazer and it looked sloppy. David ran into his daughter’s room and borrowed one of her stiff plastic headbands. He tucked it under his collar and it kept his collar crisp for the entire day. He knew he had the makings of a great product, and before the week was out he had made contact with Enventys to help develop the product.

The headband was a good start, but he knew it would be tough to sell headbands to style conscious men. In March of 2014, David brought a box of his daughter’s headbands, and met the design team. The idea for the product was simple, but the subtleties of the shape and fit would make or break it in the marketplace.

The first step in the design process was ideation. Since the concept was relatively simple, the team tried to think of ways to add or enhance the value of the product. One of the ideas was to make it adjustable, and the design team sketched concepts with sliders and locking mechanisms so that it would fit many neck sizes. The other big question was the shape of the band. The product had to be completely hidden under the collar, and we came up with ideas with thin arms to reduce the visible footprint of the product. We also played with removing material from strategic areas to cut down on the plastic volume whiles maintaining stiffness.

Ideation sketches of early concepts

Ideation sketches of early concepts

Ideation sketches of early concepts

The next step was to take the ideas from the ideation and make concept models of the most promising designs. Since many of the concepts were a single piece of plastic, it was fast to make many different iterations of the product. We made some simple flat pattern models in our SolidWorks CAD software and cut them from white styrene plastic on our Epilog Laser cutter. Then we used a heat gun to form the flat patterns around a steel tube to get the curved shape of the product. We tested different shapes, thicknesses, adjustment methods, and curve diameters. About 20 different models were made. We found that most of the cutout shapes were too flimsy to keep the collar crisp and the best configuration was a full width band that tapered to a rounded point towards the ends of the arms. Material of .060” was about as thick as it could be before making the collar look chunky and 5” diameter was the best balance of support and a clean look.

Perky Collar Concept Models

A series of concept models with different thicknesses and shapes.

David agreed with most of our recommendations. He liked the simpler one piece version and the 5” diameter too. He thought that .060” thick was a little too stiff, but the .040” was too thin, so we agreed to split the difference and make it .050” thick. He was also keen to try some different colors and materials. We made him some additional prototypes in polycarbonate, Kydex and mirrored styrene. David ended up liking the transparent version of the product the best, and I encouraged him to choose polycarbonate due to its impact resistance.

In February of 2015, the Perky Collar patent filing was completed, and we were finishing up the final design. I created the CAD model of the product with its final shape and David’s new logo. One last 3D printed model was created on an SLA machine to verify the CAD and the look of the product. David was able to use the print to start generating buzz for the product while I worked on getting the product sourced.

Perky Collar 3D Printed Model

3D printed model of the final design.

David wanted to keep the production of the Perky Collars in the U.S. if possible. I engaged a few groups domestically and abroad. We found that the part price from the U.S. vendors was competitive, but the tooling costs were more than double. The product has to be injection molded as a flat pattern first and then heated and bent into its final shape. In the end we decided to make a 5000 unit run with a trusted vendor in China. In May we received the first samples off of the tooling, called the T1 samples. They were good, but the tool needed additional polishing and there was some staining issues at the injection site. The T2 sample arrived a few weeks later and they were great. We told the factory to do a little more polishing of the tool and the order was placed. In late July, 5,000 Perky Collars were in the U.S.

Despite having product, David still did not have packaging figured out. He tried to design it on his own while we were sourcing the product. He struggled to get it to look the way he wanted, so the Enventys design team helped finish it. David was open to sweeping changes to the packaging, as well as the logo. Rae McNeil and Alex Werbickas redesigned the logo, sourced a high-class box, developed an instructional infographic, and made a before and after comparison photo for the packaging. The boxes were made in New Jersey and the labels and other graphics were printed locally in Charlotte. The result is a classy package that will live in high-end retail and make a great gift, too.

3D printed model of the final design.

3D printed model of the final design.

Success seems to be on the horizon for David Frankel and the Perky Collar. He has been relentlessly selling the product to dry cleaners and local clothing stores in Charlotte to get the word out, and has already sold about 500 Perky Collars. He has also sparked interest from buyers from some high end department stores, and is working on securing purchase orders for 2015 and 2016.

The development of the Perky Collar is proof that even the seemingly simple products require time and attention to detail to be successful. It is a single part product with no design dependencies, yet it still required many prototypes and iterations to find the design parameters to make it work and look great.

More info about David and the Perky Collar can be found at


Like David, do you have an idea for a new product invention?

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protoTYPING: Teaching my daughter to prototype, solder, build and create

My original plan for this column was the foundation for dad of the year dreams. I was going to prove that it was possible to build a custom-designed RC car with my 4 year old daughter, Harper. And I was going to do it in about 10 days. Before talking it over with my daughter, I went to a Goodwill store and purchased a cast-off Radio Shack RC buggy for $2 that seemed to be in pretty good shape. I was going to disassemble it with her to see what parts we could harvest. Then I was going to have her draw a new car shape and use a water jet cutter to make a new chassis out of wood from her drawings. Then we were going to paint it and likely get some glitter on it, too. I was going to have her solder up a circuit board with blinking LED headlights, then install the controls from a nicer RC car and have her drive it.

It is not hard to see that the plan derailed quickly.


My future RC car builder, Harper

Building an RC car with her was a red herring to the real goal of teaching Harper the basic prototyping skills that get used in the Enventys prototyping shop every day. The end goal is not to prepare her for a career in product development, necessarily, but to give her the pleasure of building something, while introducing her to some unique tools along the way. It occurred to me that we have done some interesting building projects along the way and have almost by accident been working on all of the skills I was going to teach her with the RC car project. These are some of the projects that I have worked on with Harper that I am hoping form the building blocks for lifelong curiosity and the pleasure of making.


Often times prototyping is taking a set of parts and rearranging them to create something different. I see cooking as roughly the same. With core ingredients of flour, water, sugar, salt, and of course sprinkles you can bake cookies, bread, rhubarb crisp or muffins. One of my favorite activities to do with Harper on a weekend morning is to bake chocolate chip cookies. I let her dump the ingredients in and stir them up. After a few times of doing this she has set at least half of the ingredients to memory. Just a few days ago, she told me she wanted to do an experiment. She had me get out a bowl and started calling out for me to get ingredients from the pantry while she got some water from the sink. She mixed up flour, lots of sugar, water, sprinkles, and vinegar (yes, vinegar) and told me the cookies were ready. While she was napping I could have chucked it because it seemed like it was going to be terrible, but I baked it in a small cake tin instead. She got mad at me for not baking it as cookies, but we still tasted it as an after dinner treat. Surprisingly it was not too bad.


It seems like every kid likes to paint, and Harper is no exception. She will do water colors, but she has no time for the subtle hues of a Georgia O’Keefe. She likes bright and bold colors. Peter Max is more her style. She paints rainbows, sunny days and an occasional tribute to our dead cat on paper at her easel. However, I wanted her to paint something more tangible. I like to build racecar models and it was one of my favorite activities as a kid. My dad used to call me the “glueifyer” as all of my builds had as much weight in Testors model glue as they did in car parts. I had an old Tony Stewart model car in my office, and I was never going to have the time to build it. So one day I got it out and I let her paint the parts with some some of my Tamiya paint and a nicer paintbrush than the junky dollar store ones from her art set. I explained to her the different parts of the car and let her pick out the palette. She had fun painting a 3D object and noted that the paint was “soft” which seemed like an observation of a mature artist as opposed to a 3 year old. Like every other model I have ever built, this one will take years, or never get done at all, but it is certainly the most fun, and the only one with a rainbow colored engine.

Harper painting a car model

Harper painting a car model


Electricity is abstract for many adults, let alone a pre-schooler, so I wanted to build a really simple circuit with Harper. One day we read a book from the library about the lantern festival during Chinese New Year. At the back of the book was a page describing how to make your own lantern out of paper. It hit me that the lanterns would be even better with a little LED in them. So we built the paper lantern together. Then I got a yellow LED from my electronics kit, a resister and 2AA batteries. I showed her the pieces and we taped the LED leads to the battery and made the lantern light up. We turned off all the lights in the house and spent the next half hour walking around the house looking for treasure. Since then I have also had her solder up an LED circuit board kit that I got from Radio Shack. I made sure to get the lead-free solder and she had lots of fun using the soldering wand.

Harper and I soldering.

Harper and I soldering.


Wood is great material for prototyping, because it is inexpensive and easy to manipulate. At home, I do not have a lot of woodworking tools. Fortunately Lowes and Home Depot have weekend workshops for kids to build little toys using a hammer and nails. Lowe’s version is called “Build and Grow”, and I first found out about these when Harper was about two and a half. This was a little bit too young to start, but I was too excited to let that that stop me. I realize that it is mostly an elaborate rouse to get a bunch of people into the store to buy stuff, but the kits are really fun. They take about 20 minutes or so to complete, and they get to learn how to use a hammer and get a feeling of accomplishment from building the kit.

Haper and her friend McKenzie at a Lowe's Build and Grow Session

Haper and her friend McKenzie at a Lowe’s Build and Grow Session

For now, my $2 RC car project has been put on the shelf, but my quest to find great hands-on activities to do with Harper has not stopped. I bought her a bouncy ball molding kit for her birthday and cannot wait until she is old enough to do some more complex electronic stuff like building robots.


 Have you ever thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if…”?

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We exist to get product ideas out of your head and onto retail shelves, all at no risk to you.

Introducing Edison Nation’s first iOS app, Sparks

Sparks by Edison Nation – the fastest and easiest way for innovators to record new product ideas – now available for free on the Apple App Store

A new iOS app to get people’s great invention ideas out of their heads and onto store shelves now available for download today on iOS devices


John Hetrick, a retired industrial engineer, was driving with his wife and daughter through the Pennsylvania countryside. Suddenly, a boulder appeared in the road ahead causing Hetrick to swerve into a ditch. Hetrick and his wife immediately reached for their daughter, stopping her from hitting the dashboard and possibly saving her life. It was shortly after this accident that Hetrick was struck with the idea for the airbag.

It only takes a split second for the metaphorical light bulb to blink above an imaginative mind. If you happen to be without a pen and paper when struck with an idea, it can take that same split second for your revelation to be lost forever in the web of the mind. The idea for the next iPad or telephone may hit you while shopping, getting dinner with friends or even in the car like John Hetrick.

Never fear forgetful innovators, Edison Nation has created the remedy for the fleeting idea: the Sparks iOS app.

In this modern invention age, what’s likely always with you? Your iPhone or iPad. When inspiration strikes simply use text to type up your idea. Can’t text? Use the voice memo function to record your idea. Even if you’re having trouble putting your idea into words, you can draw a quick design or sketch and use the Sparks app to take a picture.

The average human has more than 60,000 thoughts per day. Why not try to make some money off of a few of them? Users can turn their best “Sparks” into full-fledged product ideas with a single click, syncing their Sparks across all devices and into their own private account on Edison Nation’s online platform is private and secure, and each invention idea submitted is professionally evaluated. The top product ideas are pitched for licensing opportunities, and if a licensing deal is reached, the inventor receives 50% of all royalties.

Edison Nation has been the go-to resource for independent innovators with great invention ideas. The community platform has generated more than $200 million at retail and has licensed dozens of products. Now, Edison Nation is making it easier for independent innovators to record their ideas and get the best ones onto store shelves.

Best of all the Sparks app is free and available for download now!

Visit to learn more and download the app.

 Have you ever thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if…”?

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We exist to get product ideas out of your head and onto retail shelves, all at no risk to you.

How Edison Nation works to bring new product ideas to market

Hello Edison Nation community!

My name is Todd Stancombe and I am the president of Edison Nation. I wanted to reach out and share a behind the scenes look as to how Edison Nation brings new products to market.

First, and most importantly, no one cares more about your success than we do. You’ve often heard us share that inventing is a marathon, not a sprint. We’ve also shared that your success is our success. We mean this wholeheartedly. In fact, our brand promise is to provide anyone’s idea the most opportunities to reach its greatest potential. This is what guides our work day in and day out at Edison Nation HQ. We aren’t committed to a single channel of commercialization. Based on the product and the IP, we attempt to align it with the best commercialization strategy. We can license the IP to a category leader, manufacture and sell products, or produce two minute spots and test them in the ASOTV platform.

If you’ve ever submitted an idea, you are likely well aware of your dashboard and our eight-stage evaluation process. This process is in place so that we can securely and fairly review each idea that’s submitted into our system. As the idea works through the review, our team is thinking about how to connect that idea to a manufacturer and/or retailer who can help commercialize that idea. The Licensing team that reviews these ideas are playing matchmaker, constantly thinking about what contact and what company may have an interest about a great piece of innovation.

Companies partner with Edison Nation to find the next great innovation they can add to their product line. Our jobs would be much easier if all ideas presented to our partners were a perfect fit for them or considered to be home runs by the folks reviewing and selecting them. We both know that’s not realistic. In reality, while an idea may be in fact a great idea, it may not always be an ideal fit for that partner for a number of reasons.

For those ideas that are presented and ultimately not selected by the sponsor, we understand what a letdown that is. It is for us, too. In that moment, it may be easy to forget that your idea was privately shown to industry leaders and given the chance to succeed. We want you to know that for many of these products or ideas, we don’t stop there.

If your product idea is not chosen, you have the opportunity to submit your idea into either the Open Search for all product categories or the Insider Licensing Program for patented or patent-pending ideas in all product categories. In these searches, we do a whole lot more for your idea. Once we’ve selected an idea, a tremendous amount of work is done at our expense, above and beyond the submission fee. Remember, no additional fees will ever be requested of you at any time.

Utilizing the information from your submission, we:

  • Identify the top potential licensing partners in the category
  • Do a deep dive into the category to ensure the Licensing team is armed with research to show how your idea is a great fit for the space
  • Create a pitch to present to category leaders that focus on the features and benefits of your idea
  • These pitches include industrial design work and a demonstrative video that, once presented, will give a potential partner a clear understanding of your idea in 60 seconds or less.
  • Connect with each partner early and often to keep lines of communication open
  • Work with the partner to determine fair and competitive terms and deal structures
  • Ensure confidentiality of all ideas evaluated and presented
  • Handle all patent work required once a deal has been signed at no additional cost to you
  • Manage the complete road to commercialization so that the end result is your idea on the store shelf

We work to find the right commercialization path, the right partner and the right deal structure for your idea. We will continue to run with a great innovation until we find a home for it, no matter how long it takes. If, down the road, it has been determined that a licensed idea is not able to be commercialized, all completed design work and intellectual property are immediately returned to you, the innovator.

Inventing and bringing products to market is a marathon, not a sprint. I’m a marathon runner and am fully aware of what this journey entails. A great example is our partnership with HSN’s Joy Mangano. We met with her team in the spring of 2013 to discuss ways in which we could collaborate on new product innovations. From that point forward, we have been working on three new products that will launch later this year. We are going to be expanding the relationship as Joy’s brand continues to grow. Recently, she shared a link with us for a movie that is opening on Christmas day telling the story of her rise from single mom to successful product marketer.

I want you to know that every member of my team cares. Certainly, we’d like to get more deals done and get all deals done quicker. We work every opportunity as hard as it can be worked, but many of the go-forward decisions lie in the hands of our partners. Their businesses constantly change and we have to be prepared for and live with that reality. My team wouldn’t trade the ups, the downs, the pain and the joy of seeing a sketch on a napkin or a fully-developed prototype come to life for anything. It’s not easy, but nothing that is worth it in life rarely is. That’s been my experience so far.

In closing, I want to say thank you for everything you do. Don’t quit inventing and don’t stop caring. In my opinion, one of Thomas Edison’s best quotes was, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time,” followed closely by, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Edison Nation won’t give up on your great ideas. We’ll continue to press on and we’ll continue to find successes in the marketplace. We’ll get there together.

Thank you,

Todd Stancombe

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Meet the EN Team: Mike Irwin


Mike Irwin

As an online community and innovation marketplace, you can imagine there is a lot of necessary web upkeep. Lucky for us, we have our newest Web Developer, Mike Irwin, to understand what MVC frameworks, jQuery and AngularJS are so the rest of us don’t have to.

Q1. What is your position and what does it entail?

A. Web Developer. I’m helping to make and more awesome.

Q2. What do you enjoy most about working at Edison Nation?

A. The people. This place is teeming with good folks. I like that.

Q3. If you could be doing anything else right this moment, what would it be?

A. Playing music.

Q4. What’s your hidden talent?

A. I’m a classically trained percussionist, an ex-amateur boxer and I make a mean pot of coffee.

Q5. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A. Astronaut, cowboy, Wolverine.

Q6. If you could experience someone else’s life for just one day, who would it be?

A. A blind person. I’m curious to know what it would be like to experience the world by having to rely on my other senses since vision is such an overwhelmingly powerful sense. I’d like to “see” what it’s like to not be able to depend on my eyes so much. Closing my eyes doesn’t count since it’s too easy to cheat.

Q7. Who are you often told is your doppelganger?

A. Glen Hansard, that devilishly handsome lad from the Emerald Isle.

Q8. You’re only allowed to eat one food for the rest of your life. What would you choose?

A. Sushi. Any kind as long as it’s fresh.

Q9. What’s a goal you’re most proud of accomplishing?

A. Getting to travel to many places around the world, whether on tour or just for fun.

Q10. What do you think is the greatest invention in your lifetime and why?

A. Easy. The web. It puts most of the world’s knowledge at our fingertips, helps level the playing field for anyone that wants to play, gives a microphone to anyone that wants to be heard and generally makes our big world much smaller.


Want to meet other members of our staff? Catch up on past Meet the EN Team posts!

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Meet the EN Team: Katie Foss

Katie Foss

Meet one of our newest team members who is part of our licensing team and is responsible for all legal affairs, including conducting those pesky Stage 6 IP reviews :).

Q1. What is your position and what does it entail?

A. My position is General Counsel, which basically means I am Edison Nation’s attorney. I do everything from drafting and reviewing legal documents, completing internal IP reviews of idea submissions, coordinating all of our patents with outside counsel, handling trademarks and copyrights, etc. etc. I’m a one woman show, and I stay very busy!

Q2. What do you enjoy most about working at Edison Nation?

A. The people here are amazing, but they are slightly edged out by the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine since it supplies me with Dr. Pepper. I require large amounts of caffeine to do my job.

Q3. If you could be doing anything else right this moment, what would it be?

A. Hanging out with my 3 year old son Logan, though this would likely mean watching the same Disney/Pixar movie for the 658th time.

Q4. What’s your hidden talent?

A. I actually have a pretty decent singing voice. I sang with the Virginia Children’s Chorus when I was young, which also allowed me the opportunity to sing with the Virginia Symphony once. These days most of my singing is done either in the car or as part of my son’s bedtime routine.

Q5. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A. For a brief period of time in the 80’s I wanted to be a marine biologist, but from the time I was about 6 years old I wanted only to be a lawyer. I do still have a fascination with great white sharks, and one of my dreams is to see one up close and personal…from the safety of a cage of course!

Q6. If you could experience someone else’s life for just one day, who would it be?

A. I don’t know a particular person I would like to be for a day, but I would love to spend a day experiencing my yorkie Chloe’s life. Her days are filled with naps, treats, and cuddling on the couch. I long for a day that relaxing and carefree.

Q7. Who are you often told is your doppelganger?

A. I am not often told I look like anyone in particular, though when I was little I was the spitting image of the little girl from Poltergeist. People often asked if I was that actress, to which I would reply, ‘They’re heeeeeeerrrrrrree…”

Q8. You’re only allowed to eat one food for the rest of your life. What would you choose?

A. Easy. Homemade fettuccine alfredo with grilled chicken and steamed broccoli. Eating this one food for the rest of my life would likely greatly reduce my lifespan, but what a way to go.

Q9. What’s a goal you’re most proud of accomplishing?

A. I had the bright idea of having a baby while attending law school. That was pretty tough at times. Thankfully, my husband Joey is a saint, and together we made it work. I’d say that was a pretty major accomplishment.

Q10. What do you think is the greatest invention in your lifetime and why?

A. The internet. Hands down. I remember when we used to have to go to the library to find answers to questions. Who has time for that?! Microwaves are pretty awesome too.

Want to meet other members of our staff? Catch up on past Meet the EN Team posts!

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