Daily Herald
Lincolnshire kindergarten class invents improved book/chair bag
By Russell Lissau | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 6/10/2009 2:11 PM | Updated: 6/10/2009 2:12 PM

They're not as famous as Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison or Benjamin Franklin, but the 23 kids in teacher Becky Clay's morning kindergarten class at Lincolnshire's Sprague Elementary School can hold their heads high as fellow inventors.

Working with a parent volunteer who is a professional inventor, the young students spent about eight months designing a backpack to store books, papers, supplies and even water bottles on the backs of their chairs.

Along with teachers and Lincolnshire-Prairie View Elementary District 103 Superintendent Larry Fleming, they got to see the pocket-laden prototype of the product for the first time Wednesday.

Everyone was impressed.

"You're probably some of the youngest inventors in the world - the whole world," Fleming told the students. "You should really be proud of yourselves."

Clay and enrichment coordinator Nancy Brankis teamed with Lincolnshire resident Ken Freeman on the project. Freeman is an inventor who works as an independent marketing consultant; his 6-year-old daughter, Elli, is in Clay's class.

The students began work on the project in October. Their goal was to solve a problem they encounter in the classroom. Managing their stuff quickly rose to the top of the list, Brankis said.

An early idea was to design a robot, she said. Eventually the class settled on the chair packs.

After the students designed the bags to meet their needs, Freeman sent the plans to a factory in China that manufactured one prototype.

"The FedEx man arrived yesterday morning," Freeman told the class.

The red, black and yellow canvas bag slips easily on the backs of the pint-size chairs in the classroom. A black handle makes for easy removal, carrying and storage.

Some elements present in early designs were eliminated before the prototype was built. For example, backpack straps were eliminated, as was a zippered pocket.

"We thought it would be most convenient if this pocket would be open," Freeman said. "It's mainly for a drink or some tissues."

The product doesn't have a name, but is emblazoned with a logo: Kinderkids' Invention.

Brankis has high hopes for the pack.

"Personally, I'd like to see this on the back of every child's chair in America," she said.

Freeman, who moved from working in television advertising sales to inventing and consulting eight years ago, was thrilled with the class' work.

"This is, without question, the most gratifying thing I've been involved with in my short career," he said.

Before the kids headed off for an end-of-school picnic, Freeman gave them some advice.

"Don't ever stop thinking about crazy ideas," he said. "Every idea is a good idea. Don't ever stop thinking creatively."