The Measuring Shovel

How cool is it to have your invention win the “Cool Tool” award when you are 10 years old? Ask Maddox Prichard. It’s very cool.

Maddox of Gallatin, Tennessee, entered his Measuring Shovel in the Invention Convention hosted by Middle Tennessee State University. He won first place in his grade (fourth) and was selected to attend the National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo (NICEE) held by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Virginia. There, he won the Household Organization and Tools Award sponsored by Stanley Black & Decker for students in grades 4 through 12.

Maddox grew up in the lawn and garden industry. His father and grandfather own a nursery equipment company that imports and sells industrial tree spades that are used to transplant trees and large bushes. Maddox’s work was on a much smaller scale, helping his grandmother with her gardening and his mother with landscaping. He sure could wield a mean shovel, but then there was all that time taken up with a tape or ruler, measuring the holes to make sure they were deep enough, wide enough and the correct distance apart. Maddox explains that 93% of trees and plants are planted too deep, and oxygen cannot get to the roots. When the hole is too narrow, the roots cannot expand to adequately nourish and anchor the plant. Holes too close together? The plants are competing for the same sunlight, water and soil nutrients, and some will naturally have to lose that contest.

So Maddox measured the holes very carefully; he just wished he did not need to keep switching from shovel to measuring tape. What if the shovel could measure as well as dig? Once he had the idea, it took him only 30 minutes to make a prototype. He wrapped his shovel with duct tape, marked the tape with one-inch measurements from the bottom of the shovel blade up to the handle. On the back of the handle, measurements in inches and feet start at the top and come down the handle.

Friends and family, and Maddox’s grade school principal, saw right away he had a winner and urged his parents, Amanda and Jason, to get a patent so that someone would not grab his ingenious idea away. They filed for a provisional patent in Maddox’s name. After all, it was completely his idea.

Maddox likes baseball and fishing, but mostly he has been bitten by the invention bug. He wants to keep inventing cool tools and is learning everything he can to prepare for life as an entrepreneur. His plan is to use the proceeds from his inventions to buy a big farm and raise cattle. He’s going to take things slow. He isn’t looking to get too rich—just rich enough to retire at 30!

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