When we look at all the fancy inventions people have come up with over the years, sometimes we forget to consider where many of these people got their start. It is often a problem in need of a simple solution that gets the creative juices flowing. Don Schendel would know. His latest invention, a 15 foot “grabber pole,” won’t make him a million dollars but it helped solve a local problem: unreachable trash in the local state park.
Back at his garage workshop, Schendel began assembling what he calls the “Grabbinator”, which is mostly metal (Schendel is also an expert welder), but also has plastic components. “The grabber hand is made out of mild steel with a six-inch long curved 100-mm diameter metal fingers, a total of five fingers on each side,” Schendel says. “It’s light weight due to the telescoping thin aluminum 10-ft nesting tubes that twist-locks in place. The grabber arm, which I bought for 50 cents at a yard sale and rebuilt for this application, is 4-ft long. The telescoping 10-ft pole I got at another yard sale for a few bucks, so the material cost of the Grabbinator was less than ten bucks total. It’s mostly labor content.”
Schendel made sure it was well-balanced so it would be easy to use, while also being able to telescope out to almost 20 ft for deep areas. “The guys at the Park are now using it to retrieve all of those objects tossed over the side of the viewing areas,” says Schendel proudly. “Before they had to put on a harness and used a block and tackle to go down the sides of the steep embankments to get this stuff – a very dangerous mode of operation. So this saves them a lot of energy and effort. The guys at the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park seem to love it!”
What problems can innovation solve in your own town?
Photo by Chuck Redden