The Kiddie Stool

Jeanie Low of Houston, Texas created her best known invention, the Kiddie Stool, while she was still in kindergarten.

At that time, Jeanie was using a plastic step stool in order to reach the bathroom sink. But step stools were inconvenient, unstable, and breakable, and they cluttered up the room. After hearing about an invention contest at her school, Jeanie resolved to make a stool that would be a permanent but inconspicuous fixture in the bathroom.

She went to a local hardware store to buy supplies. The employees gladly provided wood, screws, hinges, and magnets, but they were skeptical about Jeanie's idea. She proved them wrong.

Jeanie cut a plank of wood into two pieces, each about as wide as a sheet of notebook paper and half as long. Using hinges, Jeanie attached one piece to the front of the bathroom vanity and the second piece to the first. The first piece was set just high enough that when it swung out horizontally from the face of the vanity, the second piece would swing down perpendicular to the first, just touching the ground, which would serve as a support for the platform above. This created a convenient, sturdy step-up for any person too short to reach the sink otherwise. When not in use, the hinges allowed the two platforms to fold back up flush against the vanity, where they were held in place by magnets.

Jeanie's Kiddie Stool won first place in her school's contest. Two years later, at age seven, Jeanie won first prize again at Houston's first annual Invention Fair. As a result, she was featured on local TV and in the Houston Post. Soon thereafter, Jeanie discovered the Houston Inventors Association. Encouraged by her fellow inventors and helped by a member who was a patent attorney, Jeanie applied for a patent, which was granted in 1992 (#5,094,515, "Folding step for cabinet doors").

In the early 1990s, Jeanie made a number of public appearances with her Kiddie Stool. She gave presentations at the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, D.C., 1993) and at national and international invention expositions, like the Inventing New Products Exhibition, or "INPEX" (Pittsburgh, 1994). Jeanie also began actively seeking a business partner to license and market the Kiddie Stool.

Jeanie continued to invent. She designed and built a bathtub alarm that gives warning when the tub starts to overflow or when a small child is in danger of drowning. She also invented a doormat with automatic brushes and easy-grip doorknobs for people with arthritis.

Jeanie's younger sister Elizabeth is also an inventor. The two of them eagerly share their experience and insights with aspiring inventors. Among their "Top Ten" suggestions for a potential invention are that it should be needed, simple, specific, convenient, and attractive.