MOREHEAD CITY — A new device designed to more easily hold and display vehicle placards that had its start in the minds of some local inventors could be hitting the market soon.
The Flip-N-Turn was invented by Elijah Brodnex of Loraine, Ohio, with help from co-inventors, his wife, Karen, and daughters, Vita and Sonya Brodnex, who lives in Beaufort. The design was awarded a patent in January, and though it has not yet been made commercially available, Mr. Brodnex hopes to soon partner with a company that can bring the invention to life for consumers.
The Flip-N-Turn, according to information included with the patent, is an accessory “designed to hold and display an accessible parking placard or other passes in your vehicle.” The information states the Flip-N-Turn “easily attaches to the passenger side visor of your vehicle and operates on a pivoting clip to become visible from the windshield or rear window.”
Mr. Brodnex said the biggest benefit of the device is it eliminates the need to constantly put up and remove parking placards, giving peace of mind to those who rely on them for accessible parking. One version of the device may even come with a key fob to automatically raise and lower the placard.
“You never have to take the placard down,” Mr. Brodnex said. “This way, even if it’s not down, police can still see it.”
In addition to handicap parking placards, it could be used to display military base accesses or other parking passes, among other uses.
“It started as something for the handicapped, then expanded into something for easy passes, military passes (and others), making life easier for everyone,” Mr. Brodnex said.
He is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and in his career was stationed at bases throughout North Carolina, including Cherry Point, where Vita was born, and Camp Lejeune, where Sonya was born. He and his family lived in Carteret County for years and he still visits frequently.
As a disabled veteran, Mr. Brodnex uses handicap parking placards in his own life. He said the idea of the Flip-N-Turn came to him several years ago, at a time when he worked at a YMCA. From the workout room’s big glass window, he said could see always see when cars were pulling into the parking lots, including police cars.
“When I saw police coming, I always had to jump down, run downstairs and put up my placard to avoid getting a ticket,” he said. “I got to thinking, if I could push a button and put the placard in place, it would be so convenient.”
Together with his daughters and wife, Mr. Brodnex worked for four years perfecting the invention. He said they partnered with InventHelp, a company that helps inventors secure patents for their ideas.
Mr. Brodnex said he was particularly concerned with ensuring the device is simple enough to be affordable for average users. He said the invention process was challenging at times, but he got through it with the encouragement of his family.
“My biggest supporters have been my wife and daughters,” he said. “Every time I hit a roadblock, they encouraged me to keep going. If you believe in something, quitting isn’t an option.”
Vita and Sonya said this isn’t the first time their father has attempted to patent an invention, and they are proud of his determination to succeed.
“Seeing his grit, his determination to see this through, it’s so great to know my kids have seen their grandfather’s determination, it’s been the most rewarding thing for me,” Vita said. “This is a selfless invention, to help others.”
Sonya, who works at Carteret Health Care, said it was exciting to see the invention process.
“One of my most exciting experiences has been when my dad called to let me know he was pursuing this,” she said. “Another was when he called to tell me he got the patent.”
The next step is to work with a company that can license the patent and bring the Flip-N-Turn device to life. Although he lives in Ohio, Mr. Brodnex said he would like if a North Carolina company took him on.
“If a company from North Carolina came forward, I’d very much entertain the idea (of a contract),” he said.
Mr. Brodnex said he started talks with some manufacturers who have expressed interest in the device, but nothing official has been worked out yet. Eventually, he hopes the device is sold in the United States and internationally, making lives all over the world just a bit easier.
Contact Elise Clouser at email@example.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.