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The Obligatory Inventor's Challenge?

"Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door" - Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1889, attrib.


This famous phrase has become synonymous with inventors but, apart from being downright wrong, it is actually a misquote - some say that it was coined some seven years after Emerson's death.  The original statement was: "If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods."  Not quite so snappy, eh?


My friend and colleague, Barrie Blake-Coleman, has gone so far to say that the modern phrase is a "pernicious lie" - and I tend to agree.  From long experience we both know that if you have an invention to promote then you are going to have to go out and sell it.  If you, as an inventor, sit around waiting for someone to notice your genius, and beat a path to your door, then you're in for a long wait!


Having said that, mouse/rat traps have long fascinated inventors - it is said to be "the most frequently invented device in U.S. history."  Not to be outdone, inventor Mark Sheahan, puts it like this:  "Perpetual motion, anti-gravity, a time machine, an effective rat trap.  As an established inventor and the British Library's first ever Inventor in Residence, it is almost mandatory now that I have to invent one or two of the uninventable propositions as listed above!  Rather than trying to defy science as we know it and because I have not yet met my future self, so ruling out the time machine, I have invented a new patented rat trap."

David Wardell

Related further reading...

Further Reading:

"Are you looking at me?"

Award-winning serial inventor, Mark Sheahan, feels that this is one inventor's 'holy-grail' worth pursuing...

Mark Sheahan

Mark wins UK Inventor of the year (left) and the INPEX Grand Prix, Pittsburgh, USA. (below l-r)

David Wardell, Jennifer Lawlor - INPEX Show Director, and Mark Sheahan

If anyone can rise to this challenge, Mark can. Best known for his packaging solutions, he has been a prolific inventor for many years.  His most succesful invention is 'Squeezeopen' - a simple easy-open container.  The Squeezeopen closures consist of a lid that is a press-snap fit onto a base that serves as the container.  Opening is performed, using one hand only, by squeezing the lid’s sides to ‘pop off’ and then releasing your grip, the base will then fall out  under your full control.  This invention has enjoyed commercial success, accolades and a trophy cabinet full of awards - including UK Inventor of the Year and the Gand Prix winner at INPEX - the USA's largest inventor trade show.


Apart from its intended use, Squeezeopen is also one of the best 'executive stress' relievers I know of.  For some years I've kept one on my desk and its pleasurable opening and closing function is strangely calming!

Mark's most successful invention - Squeezeopen

(Above) Another invention - 'Popi' - press to open flip-top - and right, opening in slow motion capture

Mark has also determined to help his fellow inventors.  He is the President of the Institute of Patentees and Inventors and, as previously mentioned, the first 'Inventor in Residence' at the British Library.  In fulfilling his duties in these positions, he has held hundreds of one-on-one inventor 'clinics' where he is happy to share his wealth of knowledge and encourages inventors to achieve their commercial potential.  He has also officiated, as a judge, at many international invention exhibitions.

A tiny selection of patent drawings - click on the image to enlarge

Patent Overkill?

So why another rat trap?...


Firstly, it is hard to comprehend the sheer enormity of the problem.  The old saying that you're 'never more than twenty feet away from a rat' is crudely derived from dividing land-mass by rat population, but does hold a germ of truth.  Rats are prodigious breeders - one mating pair (with a little incest thrown in) can produce 200 individuals in a year.


The damage and commercial losses caused by rats is staggering.  Rural rats play havoc by eating and contaminting grain and other foodstuffs - the most pessimistic estimates claim that one fifth of the world's food supply is lost to their voracious appetites.  Our towns and cities don't fare much better.  Rats are good with their teeth and gnaw their way through all manner of things -from wood to plastics and even metals.  In the case of electrical wiring they are the root cause of many a fire.  Once again, the result of this catastrophic munching is a sobering $19 billion annual loss to the global economy.


Urban rats have it easy.  There is a plentiful supply of food overflowing from our refuse bins and our sewer systems are rat super-highways.  Be also assured that if they can find, or make, a way in, they'll also be happy to plunder your home.


It's no wonder that rat traps have captured the interest of many an inventor. There are a host of different designs and approaches.  We are all familiar with the classic spring loaded model which remains a favourite.  However it has a major drawback, in as much that once sprung it cannot catch more rats. Other attempts include: pit traps, see-saw traps, spikes, electricity, glue, poison and all manner of other means to kill-off these pesky parasites.


There are, of course, so-called 'humane' traps - design to safely cage their victims for later disposal.  At worst, they are forgotten about - so the captured rats starve. At best, the underlying problem is moved to a different area.

OK chaps

I'm going in!

'Putdown' - the ultimate rat trap?


Mark Sheahan has thought long and hard about how best to approach this problem and undertook substantial research before he came up with his solution.  Patenting and prototyping are now well advanced.


How it works


The 'Putdown' trap injects air into the rat’s scull – via the brainstem, through the foramen magnum, and simultaneously pierces the heart/lungs.  This causes brain damage, an air embolism, cardiac arrest and punctured heart or lung.  A pivoted angled razor syringe and blade ‘spear’ and inject the rodent, only as it travels backwards out of the trap. The movement is powered by the rat's own momentum and strength. The trap is spring loaded, so the syringe and blade springs back into action, once the rat has left the trap, with the syringe taking in fresh air to re-arm itself, for the next rat.


"Compared to other trap methods, mine kills fast (in approximately 10 to 16 seconds) and critically damages the brain, the organ which feels pain,

so the rats should not unduly suffer and will not have time to go under the floor boards and smell" says Mark.  This is a common problem with many traps.  The critically wounded rat crawls away to die - sometimes considerably later.  This is not of concern out in the fields but a major issue if it's under your floor boards!


Mark's design has three major advantages:

•      Poison free: Great news for local wild-life, the food industry and the issue of poison resistance.

•      Power free: It is actually powered by the rat, so no batteries or electricity is required.  This makes it much cheaper with almost           zero maintenance - ideal for Third World use.

•      Automatically re-arms itself: The rats exit the trap to die, leaving way for the next.


He also says that his trap technology can be adapted for killing other animals including mice, moles and grey squirrels.  These are are all possible future developments.

(Above) The interior workings of the Putdown Trap and (r) the expected final design.

The use of poisons, in pest control, brings its own problems

"I believe the 'PUTDOWN®' trap is the ultimate rodent culling solution" says Mark, "It  was a great success at the recent Gadget Show Live, held at the National Exhibition Centre, as a top finalist for the ‘British Invention Project’.  I could have sold many thousands of traps there, as everyone had neighbours with rats. "


At present, Mark is in talks with some of the major players in the pest control industry. Maybe his invention will be commercially available soon.  We'll keep you posted!


For More Information:


Further Inventricity Reading: Colin Pullinger and his Perpetual Mousetrap




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