From gunpowder to paper or ice cream, Chinese leaders like to showcase how many world-changing inventions have originated in their country. But for every huge breakthrough there are lots of quirkier ones that never made it big. A submarine that catches sea cucumbers? A funnel that helps people pee straight? A bicycle that rides on water via plastic tubes? While these contemporary devices might not make their creators rich and famous, they are evidence of a rising wave of entrepreneurialism among China’s working and middle classes—farmers, factory workers, students, or local mechanics who have little money to fund their big ideas but still find a way.
Here are some photos of China’s latest local inventors:
Students at Hunan University in Changsha made a fuel-efficient car that can travel 100 km, 62 miles, on only one liter of gas. It goes at up to 60 km per hour.
Liu Wanyong, 52, tests a “water bicycle” in Guizhou province that floats on two large plastic tubes.
Ma Xianqing in Shenzhen sells a contraption designed to help public restroom patrons with their aim.
Ma invented the device in response to a recently passed law that gives sanitation managers and other officials the authority to fine residents 100 renminbi, (about $16) for missing the toilet bowl.
A man driving a tractor with brooms tied to the back helps clean the roads of Mohe, in Heilongjiang province.
Ding Shilu, 65, in Liaoning province, prepares for a test flight of an aircraft he built using bicycle and motorcycle parts. Ding
spent around 2,000 yuan ($327) building the 5-meter-long (16 feet) plane.
Wen Jiaquan, 54, in Chongqing, and his family spent over 10,000 yuan making this helicopter from motorcycle parts, and an engine from a used car.
Tao Xiangle in Beijing says he spent about 150,000 renminbi making a robot out of scrap metal and second-hand electrical wires. The robot can move its hands and legs and mimic human voices, according to local media.
Zhang Wuyi, 38, a farmer in Wuhan, in Hubei province, has built a submarine that catches aquatic life like sea cucumbers, a delicacy in Chinese cuisine.
Zhang tests his sea cucumber catching device in an artificial pool. The submarine can go as deep as 30 meters (about 100 feet) and travel for up to 10 hours, according to local media.