Chelsea Lanmon’s inspiration for her first and most prominent invention was completely practical. At the age of five, she would help her mother change her baby brother Corbin’s diapers. Chelsea knew first-hand the various paraphernalia and steps that this entailed, and she resolved to create a more efficient system. Her solution was the “Pocket Diaper.”
As its name implies, the key to Chelsea’s invention is that each diaper has a pocket, which holds a disposable baby wipe and baby-powder “puff.” With all of the necessary equipment in one place, baby caretakers no longer need to gather an assortment of items for a changing. Once the changing is complete, the pocket readily peels away and can be disposed of along with the used wipe and powder.
Like K-K Gregory, Chelsea perfected her invention through trial and error. For example, at first she powdered the diapers directly, but eventually settled on a single-use powder puff of her own design, by making a “pillow” of powder wrapped in a dry wipe that she had perforated with a fork. To make the pocket removable, Chelsea used double-sided tape.
Chelsea knew that her older brother, Bradley, enjoyed creating inventions for an annual contest at school. Following in his footsteps, Chelsea entered her Pocket Diaper in the national Invent America! Competition. She won first prize, and as a result, while still in kindergarten, she was featured in numerous newspaper and magazine articles and appeared on national television talk shows.
The next year, with the help of her parents, Chelsea applied for a patent for her design. It was granted (Design Patent #343,233) on January 11, 1994. At the age of eight, Chelsea had formally joined a lengthy tradition of female American inventors of infant care items, a tradition that includes Beulah Henry (“Lady Edison”) and Ann Moore, among others.
But Chelsea did not rest on her laurels. In every year of grade school, she has created an invention for local and national contests. Her efforts include a lightbulb-shaped “Sleeve Smoother” for ironing sleeves without a crease, a battery-operated heated ice cream scoop, and a grease-fire detector for frying pans.
In recognition of her precocious talents as an inventor, Chelsea Lanmon was invited to make a special appearance at the 1997 Lemelson-MIT Awards Ceremony in Washington, DC, where she shared the stage with Douglas Engelbart and Gertrude Elion. For young aspiring inventors, Chelsea has this advice: “Most inventions are really simple and anyone could think of them, but it is the most fun when you think of them first. . . Just try it.”