Still tinkering

Roderick Phillips always has enjoyed tinkering with and making things.

As a kid he would tear apart his toys just to see how they worked.

Later, while employed at the Sylvania GTE plant Montoursville, he improved flash bulb technology and the storage and use containment system of liquid nitrogen.

Now, his inventions have gotten some attention.

In fact, some pretty big notice from national retailers and marketers.

Phillips, 59, of Hughesville, developed the Upper Desk Portable Cabinet Mount for computer tablets and smart phones.

“It adjusts to fit the largest pad on the market,” said Phillips. “It’s a really nice unit.”

The device can be adjusted to fit on cabinets or other places, holding the tablets in place.

The idea for the cabinet mount came to Phillips while he was using his laptop computer on his kitchen table.

For Phillips, an electrician for the past 30 years at ConAgra in Milton, it was perhaps a case of necessity being the mother of invention.

He needed a more comfortable and ergonomically correct position for working on the laptop.

“I found myself being hunched over working on the computer,” he recalled.

He looked around his kitchen where he sat tapping on the keys.

“I got up the next morning and said, ‘I’m going to make a holder to fit that cabinet,’ ” he said.

And so, he did.

“When I first saw my father’s laptop suspended from his kitchen cabinet, I knew it was the invention my mom was talking about,” said his daughter, Stephanie Phillips-Taggart. “I am proud of my father’s determination to make his dream a reality.”

Stephanie’s mother, Debra, passed away in 2009, following many years of illness.

For most of their 34 years of marriage, Phillips spent much of his time caring for Debra.

Phillips said just before her death, she left behind a letter urging him to keep inventing things because she knew he would come up with something useful.

He and his daughter over the next few years strived to make something come of his invention.

They worked with Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Industrial Modernization Center, Bucknell University’s Small Business Development Center, Patternworks in Montoursville, and the Williamsport Inventor’s Club.

“I knew I needed help,” he said.

Through the inventor’s club he managed to find a patent lawyer.

He developed his product. And in March, he and Stephanie traveled to Chicago for the International Home and Housewares show, where two of his inventions received attention from marketers and retailers.

He then formed Upper Desk, a company for marketing and distributing his inventions.

Finally, he and Stephanie and company CEO Matthew Fidler went to China, where the portable cabinet mount is being manufactured.

“At the end of the week we will have 8,600 ready for sale,” he said recently.

Phillips said he is excited about the prospect of having the portable cabinet mount available to be used by people.

“We hope it will turn Upper Desk into a worldwide brand,” he said. “We just want to make products that place technology where you need it.”

Stephanie said there is perhaps nothing more gratifying for her than seeing her father succeed.

She noted his determination to take an idea and make it become a reality.

But she’s not surprised that it’s happening.

She recalled how her father was forever building things.

“He was always tinkering. He helped me with my science projects,” she remembered.

Added her father: “You have to like what you are doing.”