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DANVILLE -- Steven Klein has invented water bottles that can be built into a toy airplane, a toy car, a robot and can even be used as insulation for homes.
Called the Eco-Connect Bottle System, the Danville resident is hoping his invention will come out on top of more than 4,000 products entered in Walmart's "Get on the Shelf" contest, an "American Idol"-type online competition in which the public votes for products presented in YouTube videos.
Three contest winners will receive free marketing support from Walmart and a shot at selling their products on Walmart.com. The grand-prizewinning product also gets a chance to sit on Walmart shelves.
Klein, 68, a retired teacher and former educational toy store owner from Brooklyn, N.Y., invented a product, but he has been struggling to get it to market.
"It takes a lot of resources to bring it to market," he said. "It's a difficult task with my limited resources and no influential contacts in the beverage industry."
So he threw his hat in the Walmart ring with hopes that big things would happen.
But products such as the BungeeBand skateboard accessory, the Brush Buddy paint can top, and Big Papa's BBQ Sauce with a Cajun kick are offering stiff competition.
"I'm putting up a good fight," Klein said. "Obviously, I would like to win. But if I don't win, maybe someone will take notice."
Klein's idea for reusable connecting plastic bottles came to him four years ago in a dream. His plastic bottles look like ordinary water bottles, but they have additional threads in the bottom so they can be screwed together like Tinkertoys. Add connectors, and the bottles can be built into anything from soccer goals to forts to letters of the alphabet.
"Essentially, for something that was trash, I've repurposed it into something that can continue to be used. It's a very simple invention with a big vision."
His patent for the bottles went through in 2010. Klein hopes his invention will keep plastic bottles out of landfills and also inspire creativity in children.
"Once you connect the bottles at an angle, creativity becomes unlimited."
Klein envisions lights, stickers, wheels and remote controls as accessories for his bottles. He's trying to get Disney interested. Add arms and feet and screw the head of a Disney character into the top, and the bottles could be used for movie promotions and perhaps sold at McDonald's or Burger King, he said.
Klein said his bottles would be especially useful in developing countries where impoverished children could use them as toys. And because the air inside makes for a good insulator, the bottles could be stacked against walls and used as low-cost insulation for buildings.
The first round of voting in the "Get on the Shelf" contest ends Tuesday. The top 10 contestants then compete for three top spots. The winners will be announced after the second round of voting ends April 24.
[Via - MercuryNews.Com]
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