Woodbridge High senior secures a patent for device she invented as a fifth-grader

Seven years ago, Allison Plette had an epiphany – and it came, oddly enough, after watching her older sister pretend to get caught in the drain of the family pool.

Allison, then a fifth-grader at Oak Creek Elementary, decided to mock up a drain cover that housed a spinning blade. The idea was that the blade could conceivably cut hair or swimsuit straps that got sucked into the pool’s filer, thereby freeing a trapped swimmer. She earned a ribbon for her creation at that year’s Astounding Inventions competition at Irvine Valley College, but the story didn’t end there. The law firm Greenberg Traurig was so impressed that it offered to pursue a patent at no cost.

Fast forward to 2012. Allison, now a senior at Woodbridge High School, has just learned that Greenberg Traurig’s work paid off, meaning she is officially the proud owner of a U.S. patent for her “Safe Filter.” This week, she was even interviewed by a local CBS news crew, which has posted the segment on its website. (Update: The Orange County Register also has a good read on Allison here.)

“It’s surreal,” the 17-year-old said Thursday as the cameras were rolling. “It’s the biggest honor.”

Greenberg Traurig, which has become the title sponsor for IVC’s annual Astounding Inventions event and regularly offers to explore patents for the top entries, hosted a reception to recognize Allison on Jan. 10, presenting her with a framed copy of patent No. US 7,996,931 B2. Now it’s up to her and her family to decide whether to explore bringing the product to market.

“We are delighted that we could help Allison with her great idea and assist her through the process of receiving an issued patent,” said Raymond Lee, managing shareholder of Greenberg Traurig’s Orange County Office. “We are all very proud of Allison and encourage other students to participate in the Astounding Inventions program.”

Speaking of which, the public is invited to attend this year’s Astounding Inventions on Saturday, Jan. 28. The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Irvine Valley College’s Hart Gymnasium, where hundreds of innovative gadgets from students in kindergarten through the eighth grade will be on display.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll be talking about some of them in 2019.