IM this article to a friend!

December 20, 2003

Elkmont girl among top 10 in national inventor contest

From: The Decatur Daily, United States - Dec 20, 2003

By Holly Hollman
DAILY Staff Writer

ELKMONT — There may have been a time when Jennifer Cech did not think she would be able to brag "how incredibly talented" her daughter is.

When Katie was born, doctors told John and Jennifer Cech that she had infantile autism, a condition that can cause poorly developed communication skills, abnormality in speech pattern, inability to sustain a conversation, inability to make friends and tantrum-like behavior when the child's routine is disrupted.

Katie's condition was not that severe. She remembers having trouble memorizing, and she is almost completely deaf.

"I have hearing aids now," the 11-year-old Elkmont High School sixth-grader said. "I'm outgrowing the problems I had learning."

She has more than outgrown them. She has surpassed her problems. On Thursday, Katie's teacher, Matt Stockman, notified her that she placed in the top 10 nationwide in an inventor's challenge.

Katie designed a walking stick that can growl and provide light. The top of the stick has an animal's head, such as a wolf.

"His growl can scare animals away, and the light helps you see if it gets dark," she said.

She got the idea from a magazine picture of a staff with an animal's head on it. On her entry form she wrote this explanation for her invention:

"Imagine yourself deep in the dark woods and the sun is beginning to set. You forgot your flashlight and the matches you packed in your backpack are wet and soggy. How will you find your way back to camp or to your cabin? This lighted walking stick is the perfect answer.

"A molded resin animal head in your choice of characters sits on top of a 2-inch diameter staff. Just below that animal head, a fabric-covered hand grip provides a comfortable place to grasp your walking stick during your long hikes. Light shines through inserted plastic shapes that have been carefully molded into the body of the staff. A button at the throat of the animal can be pressed to make an animal sound like a horse snort, the growl of a wolfhound or the deep grunt of a deer. A night-light-sized bulb provides the light for the walking stick and is powered by two C cell batteries, which are purchased separately from the walking stick."

Katie also drew her creation.

"I started drawing when I was 5," she said. "I like to draw half humans, half dogs."

By placing in the top 10, she won toys from the company that hosted the contest, Wild Planet, and a chance to be a child consultant to Wild Planet for a year.

Katie said she enjoys science and art, but she would like to have a job where she can care for animals. Near her wooded Elkmont home, she often finds abandoned dogs and cats. She has a Shiatsu named Max and three cats named Erwin, Aggie and Snickers.

Her family locates homes for some of the animals that she finds. When the animals are too sick, her mother takes them to a veterinarian to be put to sleep.

"It's really sad when we do that," Katie said. "I try to leave food out for the ones that are OK."

She has never been bitten and believes that's because animals trust her.

"I like to come up with names for them from movies I watch," she said.

Her mother couldn't be happier that her daughter has so many interests.

"I'm so proud of her," Jennifer Cech said. "She's done so well, and she doesn't mind telling you about it. She gets excited and will just talk and talk."

Katie admits she's been "jumpy and smiling" since Stockman told her that she won. With Katie planning to enter more art and science contests, she'll probably have plenty to talk about.

© 2003 The Decatur Daily