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Problem-solving invention leads to an award for creativity

When Joan Yambing was looking for inspiration last winter she turned to her grandmother.

Trying to come up with a project for Rosemount Elementary School's annual inventor's fair, Yambing, a fifth grader, asked her grandma what problems she has. Grandma told her she sometimes had trouble bending over to put on her shoes and socks.

Now, Yambing's solution to that problem has earned her the first DaVinci Award given out by research company Lockheed Martin. She earned that award, along with a third-place finish in the kid's choice voting, at an April 4 regional inventor's fair.

The DaVinci Award is given to students who "exhibit unquenchable curiosity and a spirit of innovation," according to information from Lockheed Martin.

"She did awesome," said Ron Boyd, the RES teacher in charge of the school's inventor's fair. "You can always tell when somebody has done their homework, and looked at the things she needed to do. She had obviously experimented and tried it out."

Yambing's invention, which she calls the foot elevator, uses air pumps to raise a wooden platform that supports a person's foot as he or she puts on shoes or socks.

Yambing found some similar inventions when she did research for her project, but she said her design, built mostly of wood and PVC pipe, combines what she felt were the best elements of the other creations. There's a drawer to store shoes and socks, and a shoe horn to help with tight shoes.

"Thinking of the idea was kind of hard, but once I got the idea it was easy to think of the things that might make it work," Yambing said.

Yambing had fun creating her foot elevator. There was a lot of trial and error involved. And she enjoyed working with power tools.

Yambing also entered her invention in a District 196 inventor's fair in January, and she plans to enter a statewide inventor's fair this summer in Redwood Falls.

And what did grandma think of the creation she inspired?

"She liked it," Yambing said.