Youthful exuberance mixed with practicality and ingenuity recently helped a Pickerington boy place first among sixth-graders in the 2013 Central Ohio Invention Convention.
By his mother's admission, Austin Arnspiger is not your typical 12-year-old.
Not only does he learn best from envisioning projects and then physically working through those concepts -- as opposed to reading, memorization and writing -- but he's compiled a notebook full of inventions seeking to improve on devices, structures and other existing products, she said.
"I've noticed there was something different about Austin since he was in the second grade," said Rosanne Arnspiger, Austin's mother.
"He thrives in non-conventional ways," she said.
"He's highly creative. He, and other kids like him, they need a multi-sensory approach to learning."
Arnspiger, who is homeschooled and takes classes online through the Ohio Virtual Academy, last month was the first-place winner among sixth-graders in the 18th annual Central Ohio Invention Convention, a contest which challenges area students in grades two through eight to invent a solution to a problem.
Arnspiger's project, "The Stair Slide," began as a recreational idea.
He wanted to develop a way to convert stairways, particularly those in homes, into slides or ramps so he could slide from one floor to another.
But he also developed the project as a way to for people to save precious seconds if they were running late, and as an aid the elderly or those with mobility issues to get from Point A to Point B.
"I was sitting on my back porch last summer and I was looking at the construction for our back stairs," he said. "I wondered how they could rotate to make a slide.
"I thought that it would be very fun to put a slide in the house. Then I thought about my grandma and how it was difficult for her to get up and down stairs."
Arnspiger spent several hours designing The Stair Slide.
With help from his father, Kurt, Arnspiger then worked for roughly four hours constructing a prototype.
Although The Stair Slide earned him a first-place prize in the Invention Convention, it's far from Arnspiger's only creation.
He and his brother, Connor, built a snowboard park in his family's backyard, which is enjoyed by children throughout his neighborhood.
An avid reader of Popular Science and fan of emerging technologies, he also has several other inventions which the family speaks of little publicly because Arnspiger is in the process of working with companies to develop them into marketable products.
"I just have inventions that solve problems," he said. "I've been doing it since I was 6.
"I just think of ways to improve stuff."
Rosanne Arnspiger agreed, saying her son "finds ways to enhance people's lives."
"He has a journal in which he records his inventions," she said. "It's amazing to see how Austin and these kids can come together and really improve things."
Arnspiger will receive a $500 scholarship for placing first among sixth-graders in the Invention Convention.
He was one of seven students to receive prizes through the contest.
Winners were selected from a pool of 317 students in grades 2-8 from central Ohio.