With searing heat and suffocating humidity over the weekend, most people were thinking "cooler" -- somehow.
But Artega Champ Dyer Jr. was thinking cold, very cold -- as in lots of snow.
That is because the 26-year-old inventor is looking for someone to produce his brainchild, the portable snowman maker, a larger version of an old-fashioned ice cream or candy mold.
The Woodlawn resident said the idea came to him when he was 16, and he has been trying to get it on the market ever since. "I was just daydreaming and, boom, it just popped into my head," he said.
The snowman maker is a simple concept: three circular plastic sections that can be attached one atop the other and packed with snow one at a time. Once packed, the sections would open on hinges, leaving a perfectly formed snowman ready for coal eyes and a carrot nose. A plastic hat tops off the kit.
Mr. Dyer said, "I had problems making snowmen when I was little. I didn't have the strength to roll the big balls of snow. With this, kids could bring the snow a little at a time until they filled it."
The snowman mold would be produced in different colors and would be ideal for schools, day care centers and ski resorts as well as for families, particularly in "snowy places," Mr. Dyer said.
Even when there is little snow, the snowman maker would make a colorful winter lawn decoration until the frozen flakes arrived in sufficient quantity to make a real snowman.
Working through a New Jersey company that promises help to inventors, Mr. Dyer filed a 16-page patent application accompanied by three pages of detailed drawings May 10 with the U.S. Patent Office. He said it takes at least 18 months before a patent is issued, so he is on "patent pending" status.
Mr. Dyer, who has worked as a junior pressman at The Sun for seven years, said he expects to pay about $5,000 to National Invention Services, Inc., a Cranford, N.J., company, for its help in preparing his patent application and distributing a marketing brochure about the snowman maker to newspapers and prospective manufacturers in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Mr. Dyer said that when he was a teen-ager, he tried to interest local private investors in backing the project, but he hadn't had the experience "to instill that belief in them." He said he later tried Mattel Inc., but learned that it only accepts unsolicited ideas from employees. He also tried another company that helps inventors but could not afford the fee.
George Schiessl, regional director for National Invention Services, said the company is 3 years old and has 12 offices across the country, with its operating office in Pawley's Island, S.C. An office in Baltimore has closed, he said.
He said the company offers inventors a three-year effort to get their ideas before as many potential manufacturers and marketers as possible, and that the company normally charges from $4,000 to $6,000, depending on the product and the work involved.
Mr. Dyer, who is also a budding poet and songwriter, paid to have two of his songs, "Miracle" and "Paradise," performed and recorded by a Hollywood company.
"If I have to pay someone to do it to get it before the public, that's fine with me. I'll do whatever it takes," he said. "I'll never give up on this, I believe in it strongly. Somebody will make it -- someday. I just need a break."