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Vend Renter wants to be an assistant for your outdoor experience

Team Vend Renter represents Portland Community College in the finals with grit! and a little rock and roll!

The women behind Team Vend Renter set out to make life easier for people like themselves — busy professionals with kids who want to do it all. Their sustainably powered outdoor kiosk is set up to be an assistant for outdoor experiences, providing wi-fi service and equipment rentals in one elegant package.

The team — Claressa Tracy-Manning, Meranda Tracy-Manning, and Adriana Garcia — represents Portland Community College in the 2019 finals. Read on to learn where their idea came from, the amazing support they've received from PCC to bring it to life, and the rocking list of female inventors they turn to for inspiration.

1. What is your invention?

Our invention, The Vend Renter, is a smart vending machine which allows sales and rentals of outdoor equipment in public, community, and natural areas. It’s independently powered with sustainable technology. Solar panels and soft wind helix turbines allow the units to be placed in outdoor locations without having to disturb the environment by installing infrastructure for resources. Vend Renter also provides wide-area 5G wi-fi service to remote areas, which can be used by outdoor agencies and citizens for convenience or emergencies. There are device charging lockers with no outlet plate chargers for people who need a bit of juice for their devices. Vend Renter is our outdoor assistant, helping people get more enjoyment out of our natural areas safely.

2. Where did you get the inspiration for your invention idea?

We’re all full-time students with full-time jobs. My sister and I raise my two nephews together. You could say were a busy bunch. We really love our time out of the house. After a while we noticed a pattern to the issues we dealt with during our outings. The exact same thing happens whether we’re at the playground, in the water, woods or walking around town. We always forget something at home. One of our devices dies, plus we’re stuck hauling stuff for the day. We needed a way to make our outings easier. After one such frustrating day at the park we grumbled to ourselves, “ Why can’t the stuff just be here already instead of bringing everything with us? We need an assistant to carry all this.” That was the first seed of our idea.

3. As you prepare to pitch your invention to judges, what are you most excited about sharing?

Team Vend Renter is excited for the opportunity of representing our school, Portland Community College in the InventOR competition. The PCC Panthers family has been incredibly supportive with time, coaching, and resources. The VR lab, Fabrications lab, engineering staff, Business department, and so many more are to thank for their resourcefulness and enthusiasm. We appreciate our journey together. It has been a growing and bonding experience for us as a group and individually. It’s very exciting to see our project progress in the real world and not just our heads. Our Idea is not a small item which could be easily produced without the help of the engineering and virtual design computer programs. Most of the grant budget has been for CAD designing our Vend Renter Units in virtual environment for practicality. We never would have had the opportunity to develop our ideas this far without the opportunities that the InventOR pitchfest competition and PCC opened up for our team.

4. Who are your invention heroes?

Everyone knows the name of Katie Bouman now. She is the first scientist to get a picture of a black hole. She’s even part of an internet meme with Margaret Hamiliton, who is the woman who wrote the computer code that took man to the moon.

Bet you didn’t know the gorgeous Austrian silver screen actress Hedy Lamarr co-invented a "Secret Communications System" to help combat the Nazis in World War II. The invention formed an unbreakable code to prevent classified messages from being intercepted by enemy personnel.

Margaret Knight was an exceptionally prolific inventor in the late 19th century; journalists occasionally compared her to her better-known male contemporary Thomas Edison by nicknaming her “the lady Edison” or “a woman Edison.”

These women held on to their ideas along with so many other great inventors in history. There are so many more that inspire us, but I wanted to give these ladies special notice.

5. Tell us about your team. How did you connect with one another and how do you work together?

Team Vend Renter is comprised of myself, Claressa Tracy-Manning (team leader), My little sister, Meranda Tracy-Manning (liaison), and Adrianna Garcia (business). My sister and I go way back. We live, work, and support her two young sons R.J. and Sean together. We’re as close as sisters can be. She’s a wonderful mom. I met Adrianna Garcia at PCC Cascade in my BA-150, Intro to Entrepreneurship class. BA-150 is taught by Heidi Sickert who is part of the business department at PCC and is the liaison for InventOR.

Adrianna and I were in separate groups and connected as friends. We wished we were working in the same group. We finished winter term 2018 and then bumped into each other again when Adrianna attended the PCC InventOR regionals in which my sister and I were competing. We immediately extended her an invitation to join the team and she said yes. It’s like it was meant to be! We have been together ever since. She is an amazing addition to the team.

We are very understanding of each other’s schedules and personal time and space. We all have drastically different lives and responsibilities and we allow each person the flexibility and understanding to live, work, attend class and compete in InventOR. Too much leeway doesn’t do much without a certain level of commitment from all parties involved. Every member of our team has proved they value what we are doing and made effort to plan room for this in our lives. Which makes the whole thing work. we each handle part of the workload making sure no one person is left holding too much. We respect each other.

6. What is the most important thing you want the judges to understand about your invention — what will set you apart from the competition?

Team Vend Renter addresses a social community aspect. The other teams do fulfill a need, but most don’t address community or social issues. Vend Renter will make it more convenient to use our parks, natural areas, and community spaces. This will encourage physical activity and healthy time outdoors for people who are becoming steadily more inactive in this high-tech, high-stress lifestyle most of us live. It will also build community connections with others enjoying the shared spaces encouraging social growth. Many environmentally conscious people have given up owning cars for biking and public transit, and many others just can’t afford to own a car. These people have very limited options for what they can bring with them when they enjoy the green spaces. Maybe they aren’t strong enough to carry equipment with them or can’t afford to buy outdoor equipment outright. The convenience of having useful and fun outdoor items for renting at a fraction of the cost of owning would give the lower income individuals the opportunity to have the same fun as the people who can afford more. It evens the playing field making our natural spaces accessible for all walks of life.

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