We've had dozens of Invention Award winners over the years, and we found ourselves wondering: what's going on with some of those past winners? We tracked down five of our favorites to find out their current statuses.
A step-by-step guide to becoming a successful inventor
By Katherine E. Bagley
Posted 06.18.2012 at 10:50 am 7 Comments
The path to becoming a successful inventor is easier than ever--but there are also a surplus of options, and it can be difficult to know where to start. Here's a step-by-step plan to inventing your own anything.
For the better part of Frank Will’s life, he has been consumed with improving engine performance. He started racing motorcycles as a teenager in Germany in the 1970s, winning a world championship race in 1991, and later became an automotive engineer at Ford in Australia. When he left his job in 2008, he applied his passion to a new endeavor: Over7, a system that by redirecting and then heating an engine’s oil, cuts gas consumption by 7 percent and emissions by up to 30 percent.
When Kelly Anderson shed her arm cast two months after a wrist operation, her joints were so stiff she couldn’t turn a doorknob. She didn’t fully recover for another four months. Daniel Amante suffered similar post-cast complications after he injured his knee; Amanda Harton watched her soccer teammates struggle following various injuries; and Clara Tran saw even greater suffering among the frail patients in the nursing home where she volunteered.
Do you have an invention you KNOW will someday change the world? Have you been toiling for years in your basement, building prototype after prototype to PROVE that your idea works? If so, tell us about it! Enter the sixth annual PopSci Invention Awards. We’re looking for game-changing products that come from the passionate drive of independent inventors (rather than those born in the R&D labs of universities and corporations).
A machine that uses exhaust heat to treat onboard sewage
By Bjorn Carey
Posted 06.10.2011 at 11:30 am 14 Comments
When Namon Nassef had to buy a new engine for his boat, he saw an opportunity. He could finally install the invention he had been working on, a machine he calls the Zero Liquid Discharge Sewage Elimination System (ZLD). The device uses engine heat to oxidize and evaporate toilet, shower and galley waste.
When Jason Woods was 19 and living on his own for the first time, he decided to buy an old ski boat. The 1969 Sportster was perfect for driving girls around Lake Berryessa, near his home in Napa, California, but after a few months, he found that transporting and storing a 16-foot boat was an expensive hassle. He wanted a craft that he could toss in his car and carry to the water. Unfortunately, no options existed.
When Chris Mullin was a physics postdoc at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Northern California, one of the most annoying parts of his day was his commute. He had to drive half of the 35 miles between his home in Berkeley and his lab in Livermore into near-direct sunlight. The glare gave him headaches and made it tough to see oncoming traffic. “I thought, ‘God, I feel tense, I feel unsafe,’ ” he says. So he came up with an idea: sunglasses that would use an electronic shield to block glare instantly.
A mini inkjet prints on any flat surface with a wave of the hand
By Rena Marie Pacella
Posted 06.01.2011 at 10:02 am 9 Comments
In 2000, one of Europe’s largest rubber-stamp companies approached Alex Breton, an engineer from Stockholm, Sweden, for product ideas. Instead of dreaming up a new stamp, he designed the PrintBrush, an 8.8-ounce handheld gadget that uses inkjets, computer-mouse-like optics and navigation software to print uploaded images and text on any flat surface, including paper, plastic, wood and even fabric.
A robber is cornered in a dead-end alley. He turns to face the police officer pursuing him, ready to fight. He pauses. The officer’s left forearm is encased in ballistic nylon, and half a million volts arc menacingly between electrodes on his wrist. A green laser target lands on the robber’s chest. He puts his hands up; it’s a fight he can’t win.
For police and corrections officers, preventing and defusing confrontations can save lives, and that’s the premise behind the BodyGuard.
On a February night last year, Sean Monagle got the phone call he’d been waiting two months for: Some 100 urine samples from pregnant women were ready for his analysis. A technician delivered them to his dorm, and Monagle, then a senior at Johns Hopkins University, raced off to his lab. He knew this was his chance to test his potentially lifesaving invention.
One night in late 2009, Ming-Zher Poh and his roommate, Dan McDuff, asked some friends to sit in front of a laptop. Poh, an electrical- and medical-engineering graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was trying to transform the computer’s webcam into a heart-rate monitor. He hoped that his software would allow doctors to check the vital signs of burn victims or babies without attaching uncomfortable clips, and that it would make it easier for adults to track their cardiovascular health over time.
Pad enables skiers and snowboarders to pull off tricks safely
By Ryan Bradley
Posted 05.25.2011 at 10:00 am 0 Comments
Six years ago, Aaron Coret, a 20-year-old engineering student at the University of British Columbia and an aspiring pro snowboarder, launched from a 50-foot jump at Whistler Blackcomb. “I remember coming off the lip of the jump and dropping my shoulder too hard. Right then I knew that I had lost control,” he says. “The second I touched down, I lost feeling in my entire body. I slid 60 feet to the end of the landing and stared up at the sky, wondering what my life is going to be like now that everything had changed.”
Prosthetic hands typically come in three varieties: purely cosmetic models; hooks and other low-cost mechanical appendages that provide a limited range of motion; and electronic versions that better mimic natural hand movements yet can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Mark Stark’s prosthetic incorporates the best elements of each. Although its minimalist plastic assembly is nearly as light and inexpensive as a common steel hook, it looks and moves like a high-end electronic hand.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.