Grayson Rosenberger often marveled at his parents' work with prosthetic patients in Africa and wondered how he could contribute to their effort. The 15-year-old from Nashville finally found a way, and it was recognized Monday as the grand prize winner in Sealed Air Corp.'s inaugural Bubble Wrap Competition for Young Inventors.
Rosenberger used Bubble Wrap brand packing material to develop a cost-effective cosmetic skin covering for prosthetic limbs. Later this year, he plans to visit Ghana with his parents to fit some patients with his low-cost invention.
"I'm very honored and excited," Rosenberger said by telephone Monday a few minutes before taping the "The Today Show." "It gives me an opportunity to do something with my invention."
Rosenberger was one of about 800 students who entered the contest challenging students in grades 5 through 8 to develop inventions that incorporate Bubble Wrap. Officials said judging was based on originality, creativity, usefulness, benefit to society, marketability and feasibility, as well as overall presentation.
Rosenberger was able to turn a basic artificial leg into a more realistic one using a heat gun to mold Bubble Wrap cushioning around the steel rod of a prosthetic limb to give it muscle-like tone and shape. He said his invention should benefit amputees in Africa who are viewed strangely because they have to "walk around with an open metal rod" as a leg.
"They're looked at freakishly," Rosenberger said. "I hope this will let them walk out their door and feel normal."
Rosenberger's invention costs a fraction of the $1,000 patients must pay for other prosthetic covers.
His father and mother, who lost both her legs in an auto accident when she was a teenager, say they are astounded by what their son has done in winning the grand prize of a $10,000 savings bond.
"We're just blown away, and very moved," said father Peter Rosenberger, whose charitable organization Standing With Hope works with Ghana's government to teach them how to build prosthetics in a low-tech environment.
The second- and third-place winners in the competition were 13-year-old Megan Guerrero of San Angelo, Texas, and 13-year-old Alex Chalcraft of Gilbert, Ariz., respectively.
Guerrero created a three-dimensional architectural puzzle that presents a fun and educational way to learn about the Empire State Building, and Chalcraft developed a way to motivate children to do chores with a chart that lists a series of weekly tasks and allows children to pop a bubble each time they complete a chore.
"Sealed Air has always valued and encouraged innovation," said Sealed Air president and CEO William V. Hickey. "Sealed Air is grateful to have this opportunity to recognize and support the creativity and ingenuity of our three finalists through a competition that celebrates one of our most well-known and trusted brands."
Sealed Air is a leading manufacturer of a wide range of food and protective packaging materials and systems, including Bubble Wrap cushioning, Jiffy protective mailers and Cryovac food packaging products.