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CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--A professor at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology and his partner have invented a device that could make
breakfast eaters really flip over their flapjacks.
Ernesto Blanco, adjunct professor of mechanical engineering, and
his design partner, Albert Sesona of Jacksonville, FL, recently debuted
a prototype of the Flip-It, an automatic pancake cooker and flipper. In
addition to being somewhat plumper than pancakes cooked on a grill in
the usual way, the flapjacks also have an unusual feature--the words
"Good Morning" in attractive script baked into the surface.
The Flip-It prototype is a smaller manual version of an automatic
machine that the inventors hope to market to restaurant chains. It
consists of a shallow metal dish into which the cook pours batter. When
one side is done, he or she maneuvers another attached dish over the
first and inverts the pair, flipping the pancake. The first dish has
mirror-image aluminum script in relief to toast in the words. Because of
the differing heat distribution, the letters are a darker shade of brown
than the surrounding pancake, as well as indented into its surface.
Future owners of the machine could purchase several dishes with
different words or patterns for customizing their pancakes. "It's very
cheap to do," Professor Blanco said.
This manual device would be suitable for homes, but Messrs. Blanco
and Sesona have also applied for a patent on a commercial model that
would dispense the batter from a self-contained tank, cook three
pancakes at once and flip them automatically when triggered by a timer.
Everything would be controlled and pre-programmed through a digital
touchpad similar to that found on microwave ovens, the inventors
Research and development for the Flip-It has been somewhat lengthy-
-Messrs. Blanco and Sesona have been working on their idea off and on
since 1960. "We don't believe in rushing into anything," Mr. Sesona
joked. More recently, students at the Sloan School of Management studied
the idea and recommended that the inventors pursue both the manual
device for home use and the larger automatic version for commercial
Professor Blanco hopes that a chain like International House of
Pancakes or McDonald's will be attracted to the Flip-It because it can
go anywhere and doesn't take up grill space, and because it can also be
used for omelets. The device could also be coin-operated, which would be
useful for cafeterias and other self-service venues.