May 25 (UPI) -- A Virginia man said his free time during the COVID-19 pandemic allowed him time to work on an invention that coincidentally involved stopping germs -- a device that allows birthday candles to be blown out without spittle flying.
Mark Apelt, 44, a University of Virginia graduate and a current resident of Richmond, said he came up with the idea for the Blowzee birthday cake candle extinguisher while at a child's birthday party before the pandemic.
"We were at a kid's birthday party with some friends and the sun was coming through the window at just the right angle so that you could see all of the droplets fly through the air and all over the cake when the kid blew out the candles," Apelt recalled to The Daily Progress newspaper.
Apelt said he was chatting with other parents and they wondered whether there was a consumer product designed to stop birthday cake candle blowers from getting their saliva on the cake.
"I thought there had to be something, some device already on the market, but there really wasn't," he said. "Then, once the pandemic hit, we had a lot of time to think about it and a reason to work on the idea."
Apelt designed the Blowzee, which allows children to still use their own lungs to blow, but the air that travels over the cake doesn't come from their lungs.
"There's a little electric sensor in there, so when you blow into it, you're activating the sensor, and it switches on the fan, and that creates enough clean air flow to blow out the candle. Meanwhile, the air you blow circles around and comes back toward you," Apelt said.
Apelt said the Blowzee was such a hit with kids and parents at local birthday parties that he is now selling his invention online.
"We didn't know what they'd think about it, but we tried it out on some kids at a party and they loved it," he said. "It's more like a toy for them.
"We thought we'd sell one to someone who's having a party, but it turns out they're buying multiples and putting them in those gift bags they give to everyone who attends the party."