It’s no secret that we’re big fans of Quirky here at PSFK. The company is revolutionizing how we work, reinventing the product development process and making it easier for anyone to become an inventor. Over 300,000 aspiring inventors have helped create 306 new products, and Owen Nannarone, with the help from his dad, is one of them. Owen’s dad Len set up an account for the father-son duo on Quirky (Quirky users must be 18 to post a submission), posting Owen’s recent idea for an interactive golf tee on the site. The golf tee, in Owen’s own words, would:
Allow golfers to have real time data about their golf swing during a match or practice round. [The tee] synchs with an app in real time without the need for big, heavy clunky practice aids like cameras and items you stick in the ground. There is no product out there that is as portable as a golf tee and an app to record the data.
A standard golf tee would be equipped with a small camera, antenna, embedded circuits, and measuring device. The tee would pair with a golf ball equipped with GPS, syncing with a mobile app to help a golfer track his vital stats with ease. The golfer could then analyze this information and use it to better his game.
Pretty sophisticated, but would you be surprised to learn that it was designed by a child? 10 year old Owen Nannarone is an avid inventor and found Quirky one day while surfing the web (supervised by his father!), trying to find a way to make his interactive golf tee a reality:
I wanted to find somewhere were I could go to get help to build my product. I also found Kickstarter but that was something I didn’t understand. I have all the components to build my tee. I just need help and it seemed like Quirky does that. It also just seemed cool.
Impressed by Owen’s ingenuity, we followed up with him to learn more about how he and his dad found Quirky. What we learned is sure to make you smile- the interactive golf tee isn’t Owen’s first invention. Fueled by his curiosity about how things work, Owen’s been taking things apart and making them better since he was six!
Tell us a little more about the interactive golf tee. Where did you get the idea?
I love to play golf and take lessons. At my lesson, my coach uses these really clunky big machines and cameras to record my speed and swing. He then uses his computer to tell me how I do. It all seemed so complicated and big for me. I told my dad that there had to be a way to take all that [data] into a small package and bring around the golf holes with me. I don’t know why but I thought of the golf tee so it sort of came to me. I asked my dad to help me understand how I could measure the speed of the club and angle. I looked at some technologies but nothing seemed small enough or accurate enough. Then, I found these toy gloves at the dump. My dad takes me on Saturday morning to our local garbage dump. I like to get old computers, radios, TVs and other electronics to take apart and build things. I got these really old toy electronic gloves (pictured below). The little lights reminded me that my dad told me that fiber optics can have sensors. My idea is to build fiber optic sensors into the tee so they can sense the golf club and measure speed and distance. I am not sure why I thought of that but it kind of came to me as we were standing at the dump looking at old electronics and stuff!
When did you start inventing? What was your first invention?
I began inventing when I was about 6. My first invention was the EZ-Cinch Net. I live on a cranberry bog, and I loved to go down and catch frogs and turtles when I was 6. One day I forgot my bucket that I put turtles and frogs in, and I had to keep running back to my house, back to the bog, back to the house when I caught one. I got sick of it. So, I went in my garage and took a fish net, some bungee cords, and clips. I made a net that I could put one turtle in, close off a portion with the bungee by pulling the clip, put another turtle in, pull bungee and clip. I ran a bungee cord through the netting and I was able to close it off. It was a three level net (pictured below). My dad called it the EZ-Cinch Net.
The EZ-Cinch net, with 3 distinct levels for turtles
I also went to dinner with my dad and his client several years ago. The client left his credit card at the restaurant and we had to go back. I thought there had to be a way that I could track credit cards and things that people leave behind. So, I invented TrackDot. My dad helped me to develop it but it is basically RFID stickers that work with the near field communications in the phone. I did not know much about what those things are but am learning from people who are helping me build the product. I also have an idea to put RFID sticker on kids with water activate battery. When little kids fall in the pool it sends an alert because the water activates the battery and sends a signal to the mom’s phone. (PSFK edit:*Owen may be on to something with RFID stickers, there is a real TrackDot in the market to track luggage.)
I also made a puzzle once and said to my dad, ‘That’s it? Doesn’t it do anything else?’ So I invented a puzzle boz that does all kinds of cool things when the final piece of the puzzle is put in the right place. Lights go off and there is a video screen that plays a celebration.
Any advice for other kids who want to be inventors?
Don’t be afraid to tell your dad an idea. I remember bringing my EZ-Cinch net to my dad to show him how I put three turtles in and did not need to carry a bucket anymore. He was so proud of me. It made me feel good.
Owen and his Dad
I also am very lucky that my dad takes me to meet his clients. My dad has clients in Silicon Valley and I get to go with my dad a lot. His clients have taught me how to solder circuits, build motors, and do lots of cool stuff that I love. My favorite client is Lark Technologies. I go all the time and work with Alvin there. He taught me how to solder. I also love Silicon Valley. I wish I could live there someday. Kids should ask their dads to take them to work. I thought of many inventions when I was with my dad’s clients.
And finally… what do you want to be when you grow up?
I want to be Richard Branson because he is dyslexic like me. Mr. Branson said he all of a sudden had it with school and quit. He quit because he had an idea that made him very rich. I want to have a similar idea and be able to quit school, too. My teachers don’t understand me and kids make fun of me because I can’t read well. I sit all day in school and think of inventions. I can’t wait get home to tell my dad what I thought of for my next invention.
We have no doubt that Owen will be very successful giving his curiosity and drive. Kudos to Quirky for encouraging all of us to think more creatively. Beyond Quirky, more and more companies are turning to children for inspiration- and for good reason. Their unbridled creativity has sparked numerous great ideas- from McDonald’s implementing a redesign based on children’s input to Honey Maid creating a cookie-themed fashion line from a 14 year old’s designs, tapping into child-like wonder often ends with inspiring, fresh, and innovative results!
*Owen’s answers were slightly edited, but the ideas are his!
*Please note, while Quirky encourages creativity in all ages, submissions to the site must be made by people who are 18 years or older. Owen’s account is managed by his father, and Owen is only allowed on the site under his father’s supervision. If you’re under 18 and an aspiring inventor like Owen, please read more about Quirky’s policies here.