In the 2007 film The Great Debaters, Denzel Washington’s character makes his debate students hold onion blooms between their teeth to improve their enunciation. It may sound crazy, but for 18-year-old Daniel G. Floyd of Chicago, the scene was a eureka moment. Born with an articulation disorder (a type of speech impediment), Floyd says he has endured taunts his whole life. After seeing The Great Debaters, he ran home, grabbed a wine cork, cut off the back, put it in his mouth and spoke aloud. Immediately, he knew he was onto something.
Floyd gathered more corks from restaurants near his home, boiled them and got to work. He ended up with numerous whistle-shaped prototypes, which he handed out to volunteers and had them use while reading passages aloud. He tested his invention on neighbors, a professor, a pediatrician and a speech therapist to see if it would help people speak more clearly. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
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With the help of his dad, Floyd approached designer Bob Coon to help him create his now patent-pending innovation, the SpeechMasterPro. When held between the teeth while talking, this small, whistle-shaped, plastic device slows down a person’s speaking pace, which helps them speak more clearly; it also helps improve enunciation by strengthening jaw and facial muscles.
Before giving a public speech, for example, users can practice speaking with the SpeechMaster for at least five minutes. After taking it out, the mouth activates muscle memory, so the speaker continues to over-enunciate words.
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Floyd persuaded Graham Satherlie, president and owner of North Side manufacturer Accurate Products, to make more than 100 prototypes of the finished device, which are now available for purchase for $19.95. Floyd hopes his simple yet brilliant innovation will not only help people overcome speech impediments, but also benefit public speakers in general. We’re sure Denzel would approve.
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