Gimmicks & Gadgets Awards

2017 winners

1st: Coupling Tool Eases Pipe Repair
Steve Almyda

2nd: Jackhammer Storage Box Boosts Field Safety
James Martinez

3rd (tie): The RAT (repurpose-a-Tool) Improves Curb Stop Access
Tom Sheline

3rd (tie):
Endcap Puller Reduces inquiries From Servicing Pressure Vessels
Shawn O'Callahan


Award Criteria

The award: Cash prizes of $800 (first place), $400 (second place), and $300 (third place), plus commemorative plaques to each of the three winners.

Frequency of the award: Annually.

Eligibility for the award: Any current member or member utility who submits an acceptable entry to Opflow.

Entry requirements: An entry should be a novel and relatively simple mechanical device or procedure designed to provide a more efficient, safer, and/or simplified way to perform routine tasks or functions in the maintenance, operation, or construction of a water utility system. Commercially available products are not eligible.

Nomination procedure: Entries are mailed directly to the Opflow editor and typically consist of a photo or drawing and a written description. Each entry will be screened by AWWA staff engineers and, if not found dangerous or otherwise unacceptable, will be approved for entry into the annual competition and for possible publication. Entrants will be notified concerning the status of their entry. Entries approved by the staff engineers may or may not be published in Opflow, but they will be judged. A signed release will be required before publication.

Nomination or submission deadline: June 27 of each contest year

Award committee membership: Three volunteer representatives from the Distribution & Plant Operations Division who serve on the ad hoc Gimmicks & Gadgets Committee.

Method of selecting award recipient: The Distribution & Plant Operations Division staff secretary will forward pre-approved entries to the award judges. The judges will provide their list of winners to the staff secretary by Aug. 3.

Presentation of the award: The Opflow editor will arrange for the cash awards and plaques to be presented at the AWWA Water Infrastructure Conference. 

Rules and guidelines

Using the entry guidelines below, submit a brief description of your clever idea, along with photos or illustrations, to the Opflow editor by June 27 of each contest year to be eligible for that year’s contest. Consider complementing your entry with a short video of your gadget or procedure in action. 

Gimmicks & Gadgets entries are judged on the basis of originality, simplicity, use, and application to the water industry. A successful entry will be a novel and relatively simple mechanical device or procedure. It will be designed to provide a more efficient, safe, or simplified way to perform a routine task or function in the maintenance, operation, or construction of a water utility system.

All entries must be submitted by a current AWWA member or member utility.

How to write and submit a Gimmicks & Gadgets entry

If the thought of putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard scares you more than confronting a hungry bear in a dark forest at midnight, then this section is for you. Relax, you'll be glad to know that the first rule of writing a "Gimmicks and Gadgets" entry is that it doesn't have to be perfect. Opflow editors will repurpose winning entries for publication.

Getting started

The idea for the device or procedure is really the most important part of the story. Everything else (the details of how to construct and implement, and so forth) can usually be set down in a simple standard format.

If you have ever solved a problem for your utility by inventing some sort of tool or new method for getting a job done more quickly, better, or for less cost to the utility, then you have created a gimmick or gadget. That was the hard part of the process. The next step is to put the idea on paper to share with your peers in the water industry—and possibly win a cash prize!

Entry outline

Use this outline to help you get organized and tell your story.

Begin with your name, title or position, affiliation or organization, mailing address, phone number, and e-mail address. If you’re submitting the idea for another person, please provide the name of the inventor.

  1. Next, give the gadget or procedure a name (for example, the lid-lifter, meter box lock-out and so forth); any title that briefly describes what the gadget or procedure does will do. If it's not easy to describe the idea in a couple of words, then describe it as well as you can in a sentence.
  2. Describe why the gimmick or gadget was needed. Include the problems that were experienced by the utility before the device was used or the procedure was implemented.
  3. List the equipment and supplies needed to make the gadget. This list should include the exact dimensions, sizes and quantities that are needed to build the device. If possible, include a total price of the supplies and the total amount of time it takes to build the device.
  4. The easiest way to explain how to build the device is to use a simple step-by-step approach. Begin with the first step you took to construct it. Be careful not to skip any steps. To reproduce the invention in their own workplace, readers need to know all the construction details.
  5. Finish by describing what was achieved by using the device. How much money and time has the device saved? List any other benefits that have resulted from its use, such as improved operator skills or record keeping, safer working conditions, increased job pride or streamlined office procedures.

Graphics and videos

Send drawings or photos. The old adage "a picture is worth a thousand words" still holds true. An illustration helps the reader to understand the idea in a concrete way. Illustrations or photos must be mailed or submitted digitally in .tif or .jpg format. Digital images must be at least 300 dpi (high resolution).

Show how your gadget or procedure works by submitting a short video with your entry—no more than three minutes. Your video may be streamed on AWWA’s website so you can share it with your colleagues! Videos can be submitted in a variety of formats. Questions can be e-mailed to

Submit your entry
Email, mail, or fax your entry by June 27 to:

Opflow Editor
6666 W. Quincy Ave.
Denver, CO 80235
fax: (303) 794-7310

Your entry will be screened by AWWA staff engineers and, if not dangerous or otherwise unacceptable, will progress to the next level of judging. All entrants will be notified about the status of their entries. Entrants progressing to the next level will also be asked to sign and return an official entry form and release. Subsequent judging is performed by three trustees from the Distribution & Plant Operations Division who volunteer to serve on the ad hoc Gimmicks & Gadgets Committee.

Winners are notified in August, and their entries are featured in the October issue of Opflow. Winning entries earn $800 for first place, $400 for second place, and $300 for third place. In addition, winners are honored at AWWA’s annual Water Infrastructure Conference in October. Honorable Mention-winning entries may or may not be published in Opflow. A signed release is required for all entries that are published.

Past winners

1st: Swabbie Simplifies Cleaning Repaired Mains
John Lins

2nd: Construction Meter Assembly Reduces Contractors' Load, Protects Water System
Scott M. Anderson, PE

3rd: Doublesnap Simplifies Duplicate Sample Testing to Ensure Compliance
R. Scott Lane

Lighted Valve Key Illuminates Valve Nuts
Larry McIntyre

2nd: The Claw Simplifies Utility Locates
Mike Blake

3rd: Custom Wrench Offers a Break-Free Method to Close Plastic Valves
Kate Mowbray

De-Icer Thaws Water Services
David Beck

2nd: Meter Box Critter Barrier Deters Rodents
Ken Rock, Curt Cluff, and Mike Buckley

3rd: Create Your Own Chlorine Cylinder Safety Stand for a Digital Scale
Ralph Brecken

Ironman Goes Deep to Save the Day
Phillip Maddox
Watch the video!

2nd: Reverse Clamp Makes Meter Installation a Snap
Naomi Fletcher, Christian Racco, and Thomas Pelto

3rd: Motorized Cover Lifter Provides Mobile Access to Manholes
Jean-Marc Ouellet and Yvan Savage

RO Membrane Pusher Makes Quick Work of Fouled Membranes
Travis Duff and Kevin L. Oestreicher

Hydraulic Unit Drives Hydrant Seat Removal
Dennis Meyers

PVC Pipe Assembly Aids Cathodic Protection Testing
Brad C. Lee and Trung Nguye

Porto-Puller Helps Prevent Injuries
Nate Porto

2nd: Portable Mixer Enhances Chlorine Residual Monitoring
Tom C. Ramirez, Doug Beckstrand, Stan Rhodes, Ratch Reshaw, and Troy Ibbeson

3rd: Sludgeulator Cleans Up
Brian Pickard

 Lighted Meter Reader Solves Direct-Read Problems 
Scott Inch 

2nd: Valve Box Clamp Enhances Efficiency, Safety 
David Beck 

3rd: Kennick Deicer Thaws Water Sampling Stations 
Ken Crane and Nick Vertelman

1st: Expansion Check Tool Keeps Tabs on Filter Media
Greg Anderson

2nd: Fire Hydrant Lift Eases Load
Richard Hardin

3rd: Hydrant Drain Hole Cleaner Gets the Job Done
Tom Golden, Bob Castellano

 Sprayer Device Streamlines Sodium Hypochlorite Cleanup 
Ken Bumbalek

2nd: Valve-Actuator Lock Protects Against Vandalism
Shawn O'Callahan 

3rd: Laboratory Placemat Eases Sampling Testing Procedures
Joel Long

1st: Spur Gear Valve Operator
Marvin Huffman

2nd: Trailer-Mounted Hydrant Diffuser
Dave Congdon

3rd: O2-B-Gone
Russell Simpson

Filter Rock Spreader
Randy Moore

2nd: Meter Installation Support
Tony Brencloa
and Robert Munger

3rd: Tapping Safety Blanket
Michael D. Paul

Nut Extractor
Joe Bracy

2nd: Turb-Assist
Stefanie J. Hunter

3rd: Pak-Rite Replaces Valve Packing Without Digging or Straining
David Harmony and Jack Tucker

Beckman Bucket Calms Flying Pigs
Kathryn Beckman

2nd: Light Rod Illuminates Dark Meters
Alan Fredericksen

3rd: The Frog Keeps Zanjeros Cranking
Mark Perinksy



 Wilson Core Sample Retriever
Bill Soucie, Robert Madura, Mark Sandahl, and Ken Nitecki

2nd: Fire Hose Roller
Paul Meyer 

3rd:  Valve Installer Mark Simpson
Dan Lewellen and Larry Hamon

1st: Blue Box
Dallas County WCID No. 6 Employees
2nd: Gas Trap
Howard Pixley

Expedient Clean-Out Tool
Carl Anderson

Aspirator System for Ozone
Frank Newell

2nd: Wheel Valve Key
Ron Marston

Bubble Collector
Greg Anderson

Bearing Driver
Donald Boggs

2nd: Stem/Seat Removing Tool
Paul Haugen and Bill Wojtanowski

3rd: Critical Valve
Brett Gehrke

3rd: Hydrant Meter Assemblies
Larry Douglas

Water Hose Chlorinator
Mark Greeley

2nd: Liability Reduced with Extended Valve Box Lid
Mark Cerbin

Tank-Vac Cuts Cleaning Time
Gary Briggs, Donald E. Mischka, and Henry Alcantar