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The "Uncopy Machine"

Jennifer Garcia of Newark, New York is fond of music, sports and animals. She also seems to have an inclination toward tidiness. Before graduating from high school, she invented two items that help make the world a cleaner and greener place.

At the age of 15, Jennifer invented a device that she calls a personal recycling machine. Following a lead from a chemistry book, Jennifer concocted a special ink that looked permanent but would dissolve and disappear when it came into contact with a certain chemical. She then built the "Uncopy Machine," a press that applies that chemical to any paper that is rolled through it, dissolving the special ink. Once the paper dries, it is as good as new, ready for reuse.

Jennifer's printing system would obviously not be optimal for formal or valuable documents. On the other hand, the average person with a computer may print up dozens of pages of paper every day that he or she has no intention of keeping for any long period of time---like rough drafts of school papers or website pages of only momentary interest. If these ephemeral items could be printed, used, and then erased for reuse, the amount of paper used up over time would be drastically reduced. Since the ink and chemical solvent that Jennifer uses are inexpensive, her system would save costs on toner as well.

Earlier, when she was in seventh grade, Jennifer invented a cleaning device more down to earth. Since her family's new home had an unpaved driveway, Jennifer was faced with the choice, every time she came in, of vacuuming dirt from either her shoes or the kitchen floor. So she custom-made a doormat with an automatic, built-in vacuum cleaning device. Jennifer had a special challenge calibrating the sensor that would operate the vacuum only while the mat was being stepped on: if the switch was too sensitive, her family cats would set it off. After some trial and error, however, Jennifer's "Vacuum Dirt Mat" was a complete success.

In fact, the Vacuum Dirt Mat won Jennifer first place in the Invent America! competition for the state of New York. The Uncopy Machine won her first place in her high school's annual invention contest.

Jennifer has learned by experience that inventions rarely work the first time around, so that perseverance is essential to success. As for inspiration, Jennifer Garcia's advice to young inventors is: "Always remember that even if you are young, you can always think of things grown-ups can't."

[Nov. 1998]

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