Student designers bask in the spotlight

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Like most of us, Nicholas Nunez is forever striving to get organized. But few of us can say that effort has led to a national award. The college senior's Stickemup Bag won third place in the International Housewares Association's annual student-design competition because "it takes a trendy concept to the next level," explains Mr. Nunez. That concept is the popular messenger bag, which he noticed is often thrown onto a chair in college-dorm rooms.

After interviewing fellow college students at Columbus College of Art & Design in Ohio, Nunez decided it was time that the ubiquitous bag was hung neatly on a door where pockets can be accessed easily and, if its owner is running late to class, taken down and folded up in a flash.

Nunez sits on a stool at his display booth, all smiles while demonstrating his design for attendees at the IHA's annual show in Chicago. Even now he's planning a new product but all he will reveal is that it's "something restaurant related."

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Organization is also the theme at the booth beside Nunez, where Chris Heckman shows onlookers how to fit video games and their accessories - cartridges, cords, and cables - into his Game Storage Box.

Mr. Heckman, a senior at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design in Wisconsin, calls it the "stuff-it method of organization." He insists that parents will love it.

"Mom was always after me to clean up my room, but really all I had to do was clean up my video-game system," he says, adding with a broad grin: "She wishes I had something like this as a kid."

When Heckman got word that his box had won second place out of 186 entries, he rejoiced that "the past 10 weeks of hard work wasn't for nothing." After graduating in May, Heckman's only plan is to follow his passion and "stick to electronics."

How many times have you tried to open a jar, then finally whammed it onto the floor to loosen its top? Well, if Raymond Mead has his way, your troubles are over. His plastic jar wrench opens everything from soda bottles to mayonnaise jars in a jiffy.

"It's a simple solution to a common problem," concluded judges, who awarded Mr. Mead one of two first-place honors.

The other top prize went to Christopher Kimbro, a senior at California State University-Northbridge, for his "SuperSweeper Push Broom." It has a compression spring in the handle that propels the broom forward, making sweeping easier and more comfortable.

"I got the idea from the compression spring on mountain bikes," Mr. Kimbro explains.

Another student winner, who couldn't make it to the show, was Svetlana Belenkaya. Her baby bottle and food warmer features a timer and a temperature gauge that alerts the user with a musical tone. Ms. Belenkaya was absent because she won a grant to study design in Paris, says Vicki Matranga, design programs coordinator.

But for those winners without a Paris grant, exposure to housewares buyers from all over America was a dream come true.

"The downside is that a lot of people want to rip off my design," says Mead, inventor of the plastic jar wrench. "But I can't complain. Job opportunities are just flowing."

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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