'Quirky' star Ben Kaufman, left, works with Jake Zien on...

'Quirky' star Ben Kaufman, left, works with Jake Zien on his new invention, the Pivot Power flexible power strip. Credit: 'Quirky' star Ben Kaufman, left, works with Jake Zien on his new invention. (Christian Clothier)


WHEN | WHERE Premieres Tuesday night at 10 on Sundance

REASON TO WATCH Everyday inventors get a fast-forward chance at fortune with help from -- you!

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Quirky.com is a popular "social product development" site: Users submit their concepts online to be considered for actual production, decided weekly by a 50-50 vote of other site users and the Quirky staff (led by Huntington native Ben Kaufman).

But that's just the start. Coming out on top of the staff's weekly idea evaluation leads to a "brain dump," where young staffers probe the inventor for details and uses. Then, the design staff sketches out possible looks, considers practical hurdles, and explores materials, ergonomics and more. And then come the engineers, model makers, factory supervisors, et al -- all with "enormous expectations and impossible deadlines."

Not to mention the input of the inventor herself, who in tonight's depicted three-week process has something to say about all of that.

(Tender ears should be aware Quirkies can express themselves rather colorfully.)

MY SAY Who knew they had a machine that could turn a computer design into a 3-D plastic product prototype in just hours? That's impressive enough, but the whole procedure is fascinating, and beautifully compressed -- right down to commercial certification, packaging and naming -- into a single hour.

The creative and enthusiastic Quirky folks seem as cool as their site (which is very), and the premiere presents two very different inventors -- a hip Milwaukee college student (whose flexible Pivot Power overcomes electrical transformers' socket-blocking) and a hardworking Pittsburgh mom (whose Ventu bowl will strain, serve and store pasta).

Coming in future weeks: a dog leash with bag storage, a bracelet wallet, a camera case/tripod and, on Sept. 20, contour hangers to support different kinds of clothes, from Jericho's Tracie Beer.

BOTTOM LINE Fascinating documentary -- and extremely effective commercial.


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