young-inventors_web.jpgSick of rising gas prices? Try the latest battery-operated car, which Christian Jackson helped design.

“Our car is different from other cars because instead of buying gas, you just charge the battery and drive off,” the commercial states.

“Only $7.99. No shipping and handling.”

Some caveats: Christian and his co-designers haven’t reached high school age yet. The car is actually a toy model. But the students are already learning business lessons.

The product and the advertisement were part of the Technology Leaders Initiative Workshops earlier this year at the North Dade
Regional Library in Miami Gardens. During four sessions in February, elementary and middle school students learned from local professionals how to create, design and market products.

“I thought it would be an excellent learning experience,” said Christian’s mother, Kendra Miller of Miami Gardens. “All of their stuff is done here on-site, because they’re working as a group.”

The chief organizer was businessman Ivan Yaeger, who has led this program for a decade.

“They started out by brainstorming – a need or problem they’d like to address,” Yaeger said. “So the invention actually has to mention a need.”

Students tracked designs and materials, searched online and studied inventions similar to what they were creating. Teams built products such as The Magnetizer, which uses air power to pick up metal objects, and The Relaxer, helpful to anyone with tired feet.

“All you have to do is turn the shoe on, and it just starts to vibrate,” said inventor Alexis Mitchell, 11.

“It can come in all kinds of different styles and colors,” said co-inventor Brandy Charles, 12. Their commercial included a website for The Magnetizer.

“The star of your commercial is your product,” Yaeger told the students.

Students got help from mentors like Debra Dudley, a program representative.

“Remember now, why is it automatic?” Dudley asked the car builders. “Work together on it, as a team…You begin by describing your product, why it’s important…You put a price on it, maybe a little jingle, a phone number.”

The children were learning new lessons with old tools.

“They’re using all kinds of skills – written, verbal communication,” Yaeger said.

During the 1970s, Yaeger, then a middle school student in North Miami, was inspired by the original “Bionic Woman” television show.

“I built a bionic arm – [it] led me into the world of invention,” Yaeger said.

Glory didn’t come quickly.

“I didn’t win the science fair that first time,” Yaeger said.

He entered the Dade County Youth Fair and local, state, national and international fairs. In 1985, he received a patent for his bionic arm while he was a student at the University of Miami. Today, he is chief executive officer of The Yaeger Companies, a healthcare product and consulting company in Miami.

“Some of the technology from the patent appears in some of the prosthetics,” Yaeger said.

In 2001, “we built two artificial arms for a little girl here in Miami who was born without arms,” Yaeger said. At the time, the girl, Diamond Excell, celebrated her 11th birthday with her new arms.

“He is the real deal – a Dade County Public Schools product….Why he isn’t internationally known, I don’t know,” said mentor Evan
B. Forde of Yaeger. “He’s very dedicated to the kids – not just being with them, but he wants them to get it.”

Christian Jackson gets it, but Miller said her son isn’t ready to join a major automaker just yet.

“Since he was 3, he wants to be a fireman,” she said.

The program could use some more word-of-mouth advertising, the mentors say.

“If parents in this area knew such a high-quality program was going on, I’m sure the place would be packed,” said Forde, an oceanographer at the NOAA/Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory in Miami.

Parents could see their children go far, program organizers say.

“So many children have such great opportunities,” said Sharon Sbrissa of Friends of the North Miami Public Library, which sponsored the program. “Who knows what’s going to come of this?”

For more information about the Technology Leaders Initiative, call 305-751-4208 or visit

Photo by Evan Forde. Khaleel Bailey, right, works on a project with another student.