That was the case for Jonathan Hinerman, Jared Dyck and Franklin Jost, who were inspired by motherly insight to take on the challenge of creating a better barbecue-grill brush as their Engineering Design & Development (EDD) class project at Hillsboro High School.
“We went through like a thousand ideas of different problems,” Hinerman said. “Then, the very last one was over a weekend before we were ready to decide—and this idea wasn’t even on our list.
“I was grilling, and I knew my mother was complaining about this (brush) and started showing me articles online. I did a little research at school—and it was a big problem.”
The result? The “Arrow To Safe Grilling,” a product that the three developers say does a better job of cleaning a grill while protecting peoples from ingesting wire bristles that break off traditional grill brushes.
“Some of the bristles come out of the wire brush and land on the grill grates,” Dyck explained about the potential danger to humans. “When you put the food down (on the grill), the (bristles) get on the food and that can cause a lot of problems.”
Hinerman said the team’s research indicated some 15,000 people are hospitalized each year due to ingested bristles; the surgery needed to remove the bristles costs around $10,000.
“That’s about $150 million in one year,” Hinerman said.
Jost added, “We started doing research and on every single grill brush that you have, and it has a label on it that says ‘replace each year.’ I’ve seen brushes that have been out there for a millenium.”
The Arrow To Safe Grilling gets its name from its arrow-like appearance. At the business end of the tool is a beveled head of 1/8-inch metal. Attached on one side of the head is a wire-bristle brush; on the other side is a polishing pad with a fireproof fabric cover attached with Velcro. The cover fabric can be easily removed, cleaned in a dishwasher and reused.
“One of the problems we found with the other solutions is that they did not clean between the grates,” Jost said.
The team added metal ridges to the polishing head that fit between the grill grates.
“When you press down on the bars, it pushes through, and then it conforms to the grill grates so it cleans not only the top but the sides,” Jost said.
When the team noticed that the metal handle of the tool was showing signs of rust when it was unintentionally left out in the rain, they developed alternate handles made of stainless steel and aluminum.
The team added parachord grips to give the tool a more user-pleasing handle.
“One my favorite features is the parachord-wrapped handles because it shows a sense of being handcrafted,” Hinerman said. “A lot of people nowadays, especially people who like to grill, would appreciate that.”
The team added one more feature for the consumer.
“People like to hang (their brushes) and stuff,” Dyck said. “We added a bottle opener on the end of this. People can hang it and use it as a bottle opener.”
Production and pricing
The team also has investigated the pricing side of product development.
“One of these, handcrafted like we do them, would probably be in the $25-30 range,” Hinerman said. “But if you could mass produce them, they would cost under $10 to make and you could sell them for $15-20.”
So what’s next for the developers of the Arrow To Safe Grilling?
“We have two separate goals right now,” Hinerman said. “The first one is to try and patent the design as quick as possible, and then sell it to a manufacturing company.
“The other one is, I’m taking an entrepreneurship class next year, so if I’m not able to patent it then, I could market them and sell them myself—and hopefully then raise funds to patent it.”
The three partners would share the sales revenue.
For the record, the product has passed the “parent” test.
“My mom likes it,” Hinerman said.
“My dad does,” Jost was quick to add. “He likes the feel of it. That was one of things we actually went for—the heavier design, the bigger design. It’s going to be an upper-end grill brush, but its not going to be super expensive.”
Instructor Lance Sawyer’s EDD class has two other teams that have developed new product ideas based on necessity.
Braden Vogt and Ben Koop developed a differently designed tackling dummy after a teammate was hurt this fall because of improper form.
Instead of the traditional large, bulky straight dummy, their model has a PVC from padded with foam. Most importantly, the new product bends at the waist to provide a more life-like tackling encounter.
“It’s basically made so it’s more realistic,” Vogt said. “It lowers its shoulder so you get low enough and it makes you keep your head up.”
The third team, comprised of Thomas Larabee and Mark Reeh, made it their goal to develop safeguards to prevent airport baggage handlers from opening the bags and stealing the content.
“The baggage handlers can get in—they just take a 5-cent pen or something, poke the zipper, open up the bag, grab whatever they want and then close it back up,” Larabee said. “You’d never know the difference until you got to your hotel and checked. Then it would be way too late to do anything about it.”
Larabee and Reeh first added a fabric strip that hides the bag’s zipper from sight, and have tentatively used the metal band from a tape-measure to further frustrated a potential thief.
“They know they have a limited amount of time, so if they don’t see the zipper right away they might just leave it alone,” Larabee said.
Schools offering product showcase May 4 in Newton
The three student teams in instructor Lance Sawyer’s Engineering Design & Development class will join with Newton High School’s EDD class for a product showcase that is open to the public from 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 4. The event will be in the office corridor of Newton High School.
The EDD class is part of the Project Lead the Way program initiated by Wichita State University. Last year WSU hosted the product showcase, but when the director retired, Sawyer said he and NHS instructor Brian Rickard decided to put on the showcase themselves for their students. NHS will have six teams presenting their product ideas. Braden Vogt (left) and his partner Ben Koop display their redesigned tackling dummy that can bend at the waste for a more realistic scenario. “It lowers its shoulder so you get low enough and it makes you keep your head up.” Thomas Larabee (left) and Mark Reeh with their luggage modifications designed to make it harder for baggage handlers to break into luggage. Below is a close-up of their modifications.