INNOVATION, focus and self-experimentation was the secret behind two siblings beating over 400 teams from different countries to win an international invention competition.
The brother and sister team from SJK (C) Tun Tan Cheng Lock, Subang Jaya, came up with eaTary, an invention that was designed to overcome weight issues in schoolchildren, whether they are overweight or underweight.
They tested the device on themselves for two months and found it effective, before they entered the World Young Inventors Exhibition held recently.
In fact, the older of the two, Ong Ee Xuen, 12, gained three kilogrammes during their trial period, says their mother Nicole Yong Fong Yi.
Their innovative food container won the Gold Award and the Champion Excellence Cup Primary Category at the international competition.
They received a trophy and medals for their win.
The competition was held in conjunction with the 30th International Invention, Innovation and Technology Exhibition (Itex ‘19).
The second half of the sibling duo, Ong Joon Zach, nine, says that adults can also use the container, which has removable food separators, a heating element, insulation, and a timer set for 20 minutes.
Ee Xuen says that the device is based on the food pyramid.
Each section has a fixed size so that it follows the correct portions suggested by the food pyramid, she explains.
The largest portion is for carbohydrates like rice and noodles while the smallest is for fats like oily food, and they are colour-coded, says Joon Zach.
“We also found that it is not enough to eat a balanced diet if you want to lose or gain weight.
“Actually the timing is also important,” says Ee Xuen, adding that research shows it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to register that it is full.
Overweight children tend to eat too fast while those who are underweight eat too slow, she adds.
This is why there is a timer set for 20 minutes, which is activated once you remove the food container from the carrying case, she adds.
She also says that the carrying case comes with heating elements and an insulator so that the food can stay warm for at least three hours and remains palatable until it is recess time in school.
Ee Xuen says they checked out online shopping platforms to see if there were similar products in the market.
Although some existed, none of them had something that could control portions, she adds.
We had entered a different product with the same concept at another competition last year but it was flawed, says Ee Xuen.
Since then, they worked on improving it and went through trial and error before coming up with the final prototype.
Their mentor Hay Quee Kee says Ee Xuen was determined to stick to the original concept of creating a weight management product even though their prototypes kept failing.
“Her hard-headedness is probably why this project went from zero to hero,” he adds with a laugh.
Both of them admit to being underweight. Hence, they thought they would be the perfect choice to test their product out on.
The eaTary is made of items they found around their house and includes, among other things used medication bottles, food containers and wires.
Some adults were impressed with their product and even wanted to purchase it for their own children, Joon Zach adds proudly.
While Ee Xuen describes the competition experience as nerve-wrecking, her brother found it fun.
Ee Xuen previously won a silver medal and special award at the International Exhibition for Young Inventors 2017 in Nagoya, Japan, together with her team for their Weight Watcher.
The Weight Watcher is a weighing scale that alerts the user when the load of their school bag becomes hazardous to their health.
Joon Zach says they plan on adding more features to the eaTary such as an activity monitor that can track calories burnt.
“But that’s another level,” adds his sister.