By D.K. Christi
Hayden Fuller is an active fourth grader who enjoys riding dirt bikes, painting and doing karate — oh, and he’s also an inventor. Recognized for creating a life-saving pod for temporary living in the aftermath of a storm, Fuller took top honors at the Thomas A. Edison Festival of Light Regional Inventors Fair in January and is headed to state-level competition later this month.
He’s following in the footsteps of his inventive father, Kip Fuller, who holds more than 70 patents. The family’s Miromar Lakes home includes a “rubber room” where prototypes and ideas flourish waiting for the next step of development. Kip says he could see his son’s potential for inventing when some new ideas were added to the white board by Hayden.
“I told him to leave those there,” says Kip. Like Hayden, he got his start with a school science competition. As a youngster, Kip remembers creating a drum set from chlorine cans and tinfoil when his parents wouldn’t buy him one.
It’s only fitting that Hayden would be inspired to solve real-world problems, too. After all, as an infant, he was lulled to sleep by a robot
his dad invented which made figure eights in the middle of the room, mimicking an auto trip but saving the gas! That product didn’t enter the commercial arena; rather, Kip kept his “baby minder” at home where he could watch in case the robot made a mistake.
“Researching risk versus profits is an important step in taking an idea to market,” he confirms. Moving a product from invention to production is a road well-traveled by Hayden’s father.
Kip Fuller’s most recognizable invention might be the Anti Drunk Driving Interlock for automobiles, which he invented in 1987. Requiring the driver to take an alcohol test before the car will start, this device is now mandated for most DUI offenders in Florida.
Of his father’s many inventions, Hayden says his favorite is probably Space Mutts (one in a series of robots) which were fuzzy and cuddly and delivered drinks. Another favorite is the handy Trictrailer, a folding utility trailer that collapses to store easily in the garage.
Success at the regional fair actually dated back to Hurricane Irma and Hayden’s concern for the elderly who died from loss of power and air conditioning. At that time, he and his dad discussed possible solutions, but the technology was costly and didn’t seem feasible. When his teacher encouraged participation in the fair, Hayden thought about projects and remembered the need for portable, efficient cooling. Technology had since become less costly and more compact. He was on his way.
“I am very proud that Hayden conceived a lifesaving invention, prototyped it, and entered it in the competition,” says Kip. “The fact that he won three categories and is the only student from a public school from Sarasota to Marco Island going to the state competition is quite an accomplishment.”
Hundreds of students from Lee and Charlotte Counties participate in the annual competition held at Florida Gulf Coast University. In addition to bringing home the trophy in his division, Hayden also won two other awards: an FPL Energy Wise scholarship and the “Best of Fair” award, which earned him $1,300 worth of camera equipment. He also got to ride in the Edison Festival of Light Grand Parade. His invention advances to state level competition at the Florida Invention Convention in Gainesville on April 27.
While Hayden is a self-proclaimed “nerd,” he’s also a normal, bright young man who has many outside interests. After winning first place in the inventors fair, he came down the stairs and said: “You know, Dad, it’s really cool to be a nerd that can ride a dirt bike!” Hayden also has been known to slide a bit on the staircase banister at home.
Hayden’s parents have played an active role in balancing his slant toward science and music with the challenges of physical activity. Creativity is nourished by taking a break from technology to change oil in his ATV or go wave surfing in Miromar Lakes.
His mom, Tanya Johnson, encourages his painting – of tennis shoes, shirts and skate boards – with a penchant for bright geometrics that are eye-catching. Weekends are technology-free zones for competitive sports and challenging activities such as karate, along with meditation to calm the soul.
“A broad perspective on life contributes to creativity and innovation,” espouses Kip. “A narrow focus limits the ability to see needs that require solutions and strive to solve them.”
Inventors don’t always look like they are working.
“It is absolutely essential for creative people to work and thrive by finding ways to clear their mind – clearing the page to think fresh,” says Kip. “One can’t be stressed and create.”
He has pursued athletics, competitive sports, real estate development and a broad scope of activities between inventions. Hayden’s current interest in invention has rekindled Kip’s pursuit of several unfinished inventions in the rubber room.
Kip has prepared a website (kipfuller.com) primarily for his son to have a record of his father’s inventions and legacy. Hayden will have to decide for himself whether it is a career choice he desires to follow.
Wise beyond his years, Hayden advises parents not to push too hard, but rather to pay attention to their children’s passions and support them.
Kip does his best to encourage Hayden, adding a broader mission to inspire other young inventors. It is his belief that Southwest Florida is in need of a strong creative, inventive and entrepreneurial push to diversify the education and career choices of its youth — in turn, sustaining a stronger economy for the future.
Creativity thrives where it’s encouraged and nourished.
“I can’t tell you how many young people aspire to be inventors and entrepreneurs, and having stories about real-life students successfully pursuing these career tracks could be inspirational to others,” says Kip.