Chicago Girl Designs A Parkinson's-Proof Cup

Lily Born, 11, has designed a spill-proof cup for people with Parkinson's disease. She and her dad, Joe Born, talk with NPR's Scott Simon about the invention she's named Kangaroo Cups.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

An 11-year-old girl from Chicago wanted to design a more stable drinking cup for her grandfather who has Parkinson's. So Lily Born devised a three-legged spill-proof and unbreakable cup. She calls it the Kangaroo Cup. You might see one soon. Lily Born and her father, Joe Born, join us from the studios of Chicago Public Radio. Lily, Joe, thanks very much for being with us.

LILY BORN: Thanks.

JOE BORN: Thanks for having us.

SIMON: How'd you come up with the design?

L. BORN: Well, my grandpa - as you just said, he has Parkinson's disease. And one day, I saw that he was spilling a lot. So I figured that if there were legs on the cup, then it could make it more stable, and it won't tip.

SIMON: So how did it go from being just an idea to an actual design?

L. BORN: Well, once I came up with the idea, I asked my dad. So we went to the kitchen. We got some moldable plastic out, and then we made the legs of the cup. And he attached it to one of my grandma's old plastic cups.

SIMON: (Laughing) And it worked?

L. BORN: No. Not that first...

(LAUGHTER)

L. BORN: ...First one. Not the first one.

J. BORN: Eventually, it worked.

L. BORN: Eventually.

SIMON: Well, you had to perfect the design, it sounds like.

L. BORN: Yep.

SIMON: So your grandfather's able to drink from this cup?

L. BORN: Yes.

SIMON: Wow. What's the - I'm not sure I understand the name Kangaroo Cup.

L. BORN: Well, me and my dad were in China, trying to put the ceramic version into production. And we read online that a kangaroo not only uses its two legs to jump, but it's tail, too. So I thought it would be like a three-legged kangaroo.

SIMON: Yeah. Now, I can visualize it. So, Joe Born, the most interesting part of that last sentence was my father and I were in China trying to figure out how to make the ceramic version of the cup.

J. BORN: Yeah. So the first one we made - that hand-moldable plastic, like Lily said. And then she - my sister got her into pottery down the seat. And Lily made a ceramic version at the pottery studio for me. I said this is great, Lily. Do you want to try to take is into production? My background's in product development. And we went to a studio and found a factory. And, you know, Lily and I marched around a town - Xing Dejin (ph), China. And that's really what kicked it off into the first round of production.

SIMON: Without getting misty - oh, what the hey. Go ahead. You're a father. This must make you very proud.

J. BORN: You know, I've been proud of Lily for a long, long time. What, to me, is moving about this experience is that it's made her proud of herself. I mean, Lily started out this whole experience so shy that she wouldn't order from a restaurant by herself. And, you know, I've seen her get in front of 100 adults and pitch this at these maker events. And so that's the big thing to me. It's definitely helped her blossom. Wouldn't you say, Lily?

L. BORN: Mm-hmm.

SIMON: Well, Lily Born is the creator of the Kangaroo Cup. And her father, Joe, is there, too. Thanks very much.

L. BORN: Thanks for having us.

J. BORN: Yeah. Thanks very much.

SIMON: This is NPR News.

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