Jeremy Olson writes about children and families, and is an overscheduled father of two. His blog tackles the best and worst of parenting, families, health and love. He wants to hear from you - what's going on in your house?
Let the patent show that Tory Reynolds of Eden Prairie AND his nine-year-old son, Connor, invented the Pooch Power Shovel -- a cross between a battery-operated weed-whacker and a leaf vacuum that sucks dog poop off your lawn.
In a cool example of father-son teamwork, Tory involved his son in the design of the device as he brought it to market. Tory said crucial design changes took place thanks to his son's imagination and simplicity.
Early prototypes had exhaust blowing up or to the side -- and the smell wasn't exactly enticing. "''Dad,''' Tory recalls his son saying, "'we could just direct that air down and away. We could actually blow it out the front.' That was a pretty good idea."
And that led to Connor's second major design contribution -- to add an attachment to the front exhaust so the device could also serve as a leaf blower. "Kids are pretty open," Tory said. "They have a pretty active imagination. He came up with ideas I never would have thought of."
The Reynolds weren't even dog owners when Tory came up with the idea in 2006. He was working on inventing a more durable, plastic golf tee when he heard radio chatter one morning about the frustration dog owners were having in scooping up their pets' poop. Maybe because he had golf on the brain, he had a vision of a device that crossed a leaf blower with a golf ball shag bag. All that he needed was some doubters -- his own wife predicted that the device could never be strong enough to suck dog poop off of a lawn -- and Reynolds got to work.
"I had to prove to them that it can work," he said.
An early prototype had an unfortunately clear collection container. "It had so much suction (the poop) hit the back of the container and just exploded," Tory said. "My son was like, 'that’s awesome!' My wife was like, 'you’ve got to change that.'"
Beyond the ideas, Connor has listened in on some sales calls and attended a trade show with his father. Tory said involving his son just seemed like a natural way to inspire his curiosity.
"He's kind of wired, now, to be kind of a problem solver," he said.
Tory is now involving his younger daughter, 8-year-old Taylor, in the creation of a more portable device for dog owners to take on walks, etc. She isn't listed on the patent, but she's looking forward to helping with marketing.
"She's ready for the commercial. She's been practicing for a couple years: 'Don’t bring a poop bag, bring a power picker."