Inventor solves big litter problem; Can’t grab it? Get a Grabbinator

November 16, 2011

Don Schendel is retired as an engineer from Motorola but his engineering mind is still hard at work. From his garage in Payson, AZ, Schendel has made all manner of gadgets for himself and his neighbors who have learned that if they need something unique, he can fabricate it.

As a volunteer at the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park just outside of Payson, Schendel noticed a big problem begging for an innovative solution. "One of the park rangers mentioned that they couldn't get to some of the plastic water bottles, soda cans and other refuse that visitors toss over the side of the viewing areas," Schendel explains.

Grabbinator takes on litter
Inventor and retired Motorola engineer, Don Schendel (l) watches as a park volunteer grabs a plastic bottle from an embankment at one of the Tonto Natural Bridges state park's (Payson, AZ) overlooks.

As hard as it is to believe, people will throw their plastic water bottles and other litter down the steep embankments from vantage points that over look some of the most beautiful scenery in Arizona. Schendel scouted out those areas and decided that a good 10-15-ft "grabber pole" should do be able to fetch litter that was too far down for rangers or park volunteers to safely retrieve it on foot.

Back at his garage workshop, Schendel began assembling what he calls the "Grabbinator", which is mostly metal (Schendel is also an expert welder), but also has plastic components. "The grabber hand is made out of mild steel with a six-inch long curved 100-mm diameter metal fingers, a total of five fingers on each side," Schendel says. "It's light weight due to the telescoping thin aluminum 10-ft nesting tubes that twist-locks in place. The grabber arm, which I bought for 50 cents at a yard sale and rebuilt for this application, is 4-ft long. The telescoping 10-ft pole I got at another yard sale for a few bucks, so the material cost of the Grabbinator was less than ten bucks total. It's mostly labor content."

Schendel made sure it was well-balanced so it would be easy to use, while also being able to telescope out to almost 20 ft for deep areas. "The guys at the Park are now using it to retrieve all of those objects tossed over the side of the viewing areas," says Schendel proudly. "Before they had to put on a harness and used a block and tackle to go down the sides of the steep embankments to get this stuff - a very dangerous mode of operation. So this saves them a lot of energy and effort. The guys at the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park seem to love it!"

In fact, Schendel noted that one of the park's volunteers was recently able to retrieve a plastic bottle that had been stuck on a rock ledge for about 10 years. "That certainly makes the Grabbinator well worth it," he says.


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