BYU grad could win $50,000 for invention

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    By Kira Farnsworth

    Recent mechanical engineering graduate Robert Cunningham could win $50,000 Friday, Oct. 24 for an invention he developed as a student at BYU.

    Cunningham said he was inspired to invent a reversible running stroller after he saw parents using regular running strollers and thought it would be better if the child faced the parent.

    Cunningham is one of 15 finalists who will present his invention to a panel of eight judges at the Collegiate Inventors Competition in New York City today.

    “To have the child facing forward into the wind seems like no fun for the child or parent,” Cunningham said. “You have more bonding time with your child when you can see each other.”

    Cunningham cited other safety benefits from having a rear-facing jogging stroller.

    “In a rear facing stroller, the baby doesn”t get wind-whipped like when she”s facing forward,” Cunningham said. “If you stop suddenly, the baby falls back into the seat instead of forward out of it. Its like a rear-facing car seat.”

    Cunningham”s former faculty adviser, Robert Todd, said he thinks Cunningham has a good chance of winning the competition.

    “Robert is an outstanding student. He is very thorough and careful in his work and very thoughtful,” Todd said. “I know that he will represent BYU and the church and himself very well at the event.”

    Todd said he believes the reversible stroller is a logical and useful invention.

    “It”s one of those inventions where when you see the device, you think, ”Oh of course, why didn”t I think of that?”” Todd said.

    Cunningham”s family is pleased with his accomplishments.

    “In our family we”re all very logical, so most of us like to do problem solving stuff,” said Rebecca Cunningham, a BYU freshman and Robert Cunningham”s younger sister. “If we see a problem we try to find a way to fix it and that”s what Robert has done.”

    Cunningham”s wife, Amanda Cunningham, said she thinks it”s “cool” that he is in the competition for the stroller.

    “Our baby was born in December and she loves the stroller,” she said. “The stroller is great because it can go anywhere, even on and off curbs without a problem.”

    Cunningham”s father, Richard Cunningham, said inventing things and solving problems runs in the family.

    “Robert”s grandfather has several patents and inventions on display at the Smithsonian,” Richard Cunningham said. “His little sister and his uncle and I also like to invent.”

    Rebecca Cunningham agrees that inventing is a family hobby.

    “I think it”s in our genetics,” she said.

    The winners of the competition will be announced Friday. The judges include representatives from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and inductees from the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

    Cunningham said if he wins, he plans to use the money to manufacture and sell the strollers.

    Cunningham advises students not to put off developing their ideas.

    “When you get an idea to solve a problem or challenge, work on it right then, don”t procrastinate,” he said. “The wheels will start turning if you just do it.”

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