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Out of 33 students, 30 patent applications were accepted for evaluation by the State Intellectual Property Office. The other three were concepts that are already patented. Hao Fei / For China Daily
A watch that uses solar power, a blackboard eraser that automatically collects chalk dust and a bobby pin that drives away mosquitoes - 30 such innovative ideas have been transformed into patent applications by university students in the same class.
Now in the second year of their major in mechanical manufacturing at Sichuan University Jincheng College, the students came up with their inventions in response to a challenge from their teacher.
Dan Changlin, secretary general of the college's Innovation and Invention Association and head teacher for the class, called for inventions by her students during a meeting in March.
But most were not quite sure how to start until Zhang Hanwen, dean of the Mechanical Engineering Department, gave them a hint.
"A complex machine is made up of many different parts," said Zhang.
Yang Peng, the class monitor, then asked "why don't we combine the functions of daily appliances to make more convenient tools?"
He had his classmates write down five items that they "immediately thought about" and used a lottery draw to randomly make combinations that provided inspiration.
One students, Li Wei, filed a patent application for a solar-powered watch because he drew "sun" and "watch".
Li's design embeds solar panels in the watchband to provide power. "Theoretically the watch can run more than 180 days after one full charge," he said.
Some other students used ideas from everyday experience. Wu Jie, designer of the vacuum eraser, said the idea started back in his high school days. "I was sitting in the front row," he recalled. "And a lot of chalk dust was left on my desk after the blackboard was cleaned."
Since then, he has imagined an eraser that collects chalk dust automatically like a vacuum cleaner. And with knowledge of mechanics he learned in college, he started to design the device himself.
The vacuum eraser, similar in size to its ordinary counterpart, "is very practical and not expensive", said Li.
Xie Ting, the only girl in the class, is the inventor of a bobby pin that contains a certain smell to drive away mosquitoes.
"The college encourages innovation, which has increased our interest in science and broadened our mind," she said.
The State Intellectual Property Office has accepted and is examining 30 of the total 33 student patent applications. Three were rejected because other people have already applied for similar patents.
The inventions are still concepts, not products, but most of the students are improving their plans and some have started to make prototypes, said their teacher Dan.
To encourage innovation, the college also has started elective courses in creation and invention. Students in the college can found simulated companies and earn credits through management.
(China Daily 12/26/2012 page17)