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JoAnna Lou
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Pet Gadget Makes it to the Finals
13-year old invents a video treat dispenser to interact with your dogs when you're away

13-year old Brooke Martin's Golden Retriever, Kayla, hated to be left alone. Brooke wished there was a way she could talk to Kayla and give her a treat to soothe her anxiety while away from home. Determined to come up with a solution, Brooke created a prototype that combines video chatting with a machine that dispenses dog treats remotely.

Brooke isn't the only one who thought it was a good idea. She quickly formed a team to develop the invention, called iCUpooch, and was recently chosen as a finalist in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge for middle-school students. Brooke is now working with Delony Langer-Anderson, an assigned mentor and product development scientist at 3M, to refine the product before heading to the final competition in October.  

Delony has been giving Brooke advice on product testing, which resulted in Brooke's current test of different materials at the local animal shelter. They're looking to see which materials can hold up to scratching, banging, and other canine shenanigans.  

I love the idea of school kids inventing new products to help our pets. Not only does it teach kids to be analytical problem solvers, it benefits our pups as well!

iCUpooch sounds like a fun gadget for interacting with your dogs while you're gone, if used in the right situation. I think my confident, food obsessed Sheltie, Nemo, would get a kick out of it. But for my rescue Border Collie, Scuttle, who doesn't like being home alone, iCUpooch might make her anxiety worse. Pets with true separation anxiety often act irrationally out of fear. I would be hesitant to market such a device to help dogs with this type of condition.  

I look forward to seeing the final version of iCUpooch and hope that its success encourages other students to explore pet related inventions.  

If you're interested in learning more about iCUpooch, check out Brooke's Kickstarter campaign.

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.
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