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Trade Show's 30th Anniversary Brings Innovation To Monroeville

Inventors are showing off their products to more than one thousand potential investors at the invention exhibition INPEX happening now through Thursday at the Monroeville Convention Center.

The trade show is open only to business attendees Tuesday and Wednesday, but will be open to the general public Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There is a $10 entry fee at the door.

This year Pittsburgh’s Samuel McCaslin created the “The Ultimate Lap Tray,” a placemat that prevents drinks from spilling or sliding off the table. McKeesport’s Tony Bartko introduced “In God’s Time, Faith-Love-Hope,” a timepiece design intended to give users a calmer and clearer expectation in life and/or prayer requests.

Nicole Lininger, director of InventHelp, said the annual show serves as a forum for inventors to display their new products and meet with companies looking to add to their product line.

Former INPEX judge Rich Wilson, 62, of Butler County served seven years before he decided 2015 should be his year to compete. His “gunBlocker” fits inside a firearm's magazine well and locks with a traditional, turn-key system.

Still in the manufacturing stage, the product was recognized as part of the 2015 Blue Book Top Ten Awards for innovation in the firearm industry for the device’s potential to change firearm safety. He's hoping to receive the first shipment in 30 to 60 days, he said.

And ideally, Wilson's presence at INPEX will spread publicity and help push his product forward, he said.

He's not alone.

Lininger said 275 inventors are pitching this week as business representatives walk the floor. If all goes well, a follow-up could lead to a license, she said.

“The success rate is small,” Lininger said. “It’s a long road, it takes a lot of time (and) it doesn’t happen overnight.”

Jay Atkinson from Bethel Park won a gold medal last year for AUXLOC, an auxiliary locking device that locks classroom doors in the event of a school-wide incident. The system aims to keep intruders out and can only be opened by authorities or school administrators. The award brings prestige, she said.

Most attendees arrive in different points of development -- some in the early prototype stage, many with a finished product and inventory. Since the show’s inception 30 years ago, an average of 1 to 2 percent of inventors get licenses every year, she said. Those who don’t might meet a manufacturer or distributor.

“Just because someone doesn’t get a licensing agreement doesn’t mean that they don’t meet someone that they need to while they’re here,” Lininger said.

The show divides the products into 45 categories including automotive, baby, household, industrial, lawn and garden, children’s and sporting goods. INPEX's international jury panel selects gold medal award winners for different product classifications. For most categories, one international and one domestic invention award winner is selected.

“It’s a great way for [makers] to come and get an education and learn about inventing and … get in front of companies that are looking for new products,” Lininger said. “There are not a lot of resources out there for inventors to be able to do that on their own.”