South Bay teens selected as finalists in national invention competition

Several young inventors from the South Bay were selected as finalists in the National Virtual Invention Competition. "Why Didn’t I Think of That?" is a web competition for young innovators to create an original invention, and receive intellectual property (IP) protection for that invention before they turn 18 years old.

Mira Costa classmates Charlotte Fan and Wyatt Newbill have come up with a product that’s an alternative to Styrofoam. They developed the idea last year, in their 8th-grade science class. Now, they are finalist and have even bigger ambitions.

Charlotte and Wyatt have been friends since second grade, but this is the first time they’ve invented a product together.

"We were both very passionate about the environment. We believe that climate change, plastic pollution, all this bad stuff is real and it's a problem that needs to be addressed right now. So we decided, hey, Styrofoam, that's a problem. We should solve it," said Wyatt.

It took them about one week to come up with the idea and about 4 months to complete the project. Now they have their product "Terreus" to show for it.

"We wanted to have an eco-friendly vibe, something that insinuates it's from the Earth and it's eco-friendly and that's good for the planet. At its core, it's a 100% biodegradable replacement for Styrofoam used in shipping and can be molded to fit various products. That's what our product does. We can mold it to make peanuts or just mold or just mold it to ship [something like] a TV," said Wyatt.

"It is very squishy. So it's moldable…to fit any product. And the bounce allows for better packaging," said Charlotte.

"There are, of course, 100% biodegradable alternatives... But, our product is the only one on the market…It's the only one, that we know of out there that is as squishy and completely 100% biodegradable, eco-friendly, and has all the benefits," said Wyatt.

Right now they’re working out of Wyatt’s kitchen. So far they have won a licensing award and secured a patent.

"At the national level for competition, for the invention convention competition, we actually won a licensing award. So we're working with our licensing team," said Charlotte.

"Also we are working on producing materials. 2.0, as we like to call it," said Wyatt. "We're busy researching and brainstorming different ideas for where we want it to go, but we know it's going to be most likely in the in either a replacement for Styrofoam in other fields or a replacement for other types of shipping materials."

At just 14 years old, the founder duo is very focused. They both credit their parents for supporting and encouraging them.

"Our biggest cheerleaders in my mind," said Charlotte. "When we have a really interesting solution, they never fail to support us the whole way. Even if they may think it might not work."

"My dad's motto is, you can always do what you set your mind to. My advice to aspiring inventors out there would be just do it. This applies to a ton of things in life," said Wyatt. "You're going to encounter roadblocks along the way. You're going to have bad ideas. Bad things are going to happen. You just got to keep going. You just got to do it."

You can support and vote for these young inventors and see a list of other finalists here: Why Didn’t I Think of That? Contest – IPO Education Foundation (