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The quiet of the road yields noisy invention

Mix a pipe, a balloon and creative Bucs fans with a lot of time to think. The result: U.S. Patent number 6,386,938.

By CHASE SQUIRES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 29, 2002


ZEPHYRHILLS -- Cruising America's highways, driving night and day for weeks on end, people have time to ponder.

Bucs fans Bill and Penny Novak sought a better way to make loud noises.

A stop at a home improvement store, some drilling and a couple of marbles, and they had the answer: the Big Game Blaster -- U.S. Patent No. 6,386,938.

The plastic device is a noisemaker that replaces the air horns most venues prohibit.

The idea is fairly simple. Users blow into one end of a short, plastic pipe, past the marbles, which act as gaskets, and fill a balloon. The user then presses a button, which lets the air escape out the other end of the pipe, through a horn, producing an intensely loud -- and seemingly endless -- noise.

"Can you imagine 30,000 of these at a game," Bill Novak asked as the piercing sound bounced around his Zephyrhills travel trailer. "You know how hard it would be for the other team to play in that?"

The Novaks said they got their idea after a Tampa Bay Buccaneers football game two years ago. Being dedicated fans, but with seats in the upper deck, they shouted their lungs out.

"On the way home, we couldn't talk," Penny Novak said.

"I said, "we've got to come up with something else,' " her husband said.

Bill, 49, and Penny, 45, share duty driving a Federal Express emergency delivery truck. When something absolutely, positively has to get somewhere -- yesterday -- the company dispatches the couple. They make custom deliveries of everything from full truck loads to single parcels, picking up the misdirected or overdue and rushing the special deliveries across the country.

They drive as a team for weeks at a time, returning home a few days a month to pay bills. Then they hit the road again with their little dog, Sassy, sharing the sleeper cab with them.

Being on the road a lot -- they drove 17,000 miles last month -- gives them time to think.

Bill Novak said he came up with the idea as they drove, sketched it out, then took a break to dash into a Home Depot for some plastic plumbing parts, screws and springs.

He submitted the idea for a patent, and earned it earlier this year.

Armed with a prototype, the Novaks say they envision a sleeker production model produced in a variety of colors that could be sold with balloons tailored for the individual team. The devices could be used at corporate rallies, college and high school sporting events, or even parties. It's small, colorful, easily customizeable, affordable and loud, they said.

Really loud.

"If even one college got them, the idea would catch on so fast, everybody would want one," Bill Novak said.

The next step, the couple said, is to find a manufacturer and a distributor. They've had some interest, but no offers yet. The device would cost only a few dollars to make and could sell for $10-$20 a piece, the couple estimate.

Time will tell.

And if the Big Game Blaster doesn't make it, maybe their next invention -- Bug Off -- will. It's a roll of removable, sticky plastic film that goes across car and truck bumpers and hoods to protect them from love bugs. When the season is over, peel off the plastic and throw it away, bugs and all.

"We have a lot of time to think on the road," Bill Novak said.

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