Posts about inventors

Propeller Innovation by Engineering Students

Innovation propels students’ careers

Four fifth-year students from the electrical and mechanical departments won a national innovation competition and are now in preliminary talks with oil and gas behemoth Shell for a propeller design that is more efficient, watertight, pressurized and powerful than other models. “The motor housing creates drag (on other models),” said electrical engineering student Dave Shea. “So we integrated it into the propeller itself. There’s no drag, there’s no dead zone. It’s also much bigger and more powerful.”

Most propellers have a body encasing the motor. There’s air inside, which can cause the body to collapse when submerged in oceanic depths. The casing also creates drag, slowing the machine down and making it difficult to move backward.

But Shea, along with Brian Claus, Peter Crocker and Toren Gustafson, devised a way to build the motor in the casing that surrounds the propeller blades. The parts are assembled in a ring shape then encased in epoxy, making the motor waterproof. The propeller is fastened inside the ring, allowing it to easily move forward or backward.

Related: PhD Student Speeds up Broadband by 200 timesSingapore Students Engineer New ProductsConcentrating Solar Collector wins UW-Madison Engineering Innovation Award

Students Create “Disappearing” Nail Polish

‘Vanishing’ colour gives schoolgirls chance to beat ban on nail varnish

A nail varnish that “vanishes” has been developed by a group of school pupils – offering girls the chance to beat bans on makeup. The nail colour is a vivid red outdoors – but inside it transforms to a much paler shade which can hardly be seen.

The dramatic change is caused by a chemical reaction between the varnish and the ultraviolet light in natural sunlight. The polish was devised by pupils from Albion High School, Salford, who thought the “vanishing” colour may help them beat the school’s ban on nail polish.

They came up with the idea while working on an enterprise project with Paul Haywood and Sam Ingleson from Salford University’s school of art and design.

Not exactly what I would create but it is great to see students using scientific thought to find solutions they desire.

Related: The Chemistry of Hair ColoringEngineering Students Design Innovative Hand DryerStudent designs a baby high chairEngineering Student Contest Winners Design Artificial Limb

Inventor TV Shows

I caught some of Everyday Edisons the other day, which looked promising (though I would prefer less fluff and more focus on the process of designing and marketing the products. American Inventor season two premiers tonight on ABC. I saw some of American Inventor last year and it was interesting (though it didn’t grab me enough to get me to watch often). Still compared to the usual TV fair they look interesting and do actually provide some insight into turning ideas into products.

One minor point I find funny and a bit lame. On the Everyday Edisons web site they show a photo with 10 people and then have an image underneath it with text (yes image text like a myspace page – obviously whoever is responsible for this website doesn’t follow the advice of the web usability experts – this image text is just one example, another is that every time you go the home page it starts playing a video with audio – it is annoying to have web sites with so little idea of good web design practices) that states something like “I thought there were 14 inventors, I only see seven. What’s up?” The image actually shows 10 people – not 7, what is up with someone that only sees 7?

Related: Engineering Education Reality TV (which I also note web usability failings) – Help Choose the New PBS Science ProgramJapan Project X: Innovators Documentaries
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Concentrating Solar Collector wins UW-Madison Engineering Innovation Award

Solar Collector

An inexpensive, modular solar-energy technology that could be used to heat water and generate electricity (see photo) won $12,500 and took first place in both the Schoofs Prize for Creativity and Tong Prototype Prize competitions, held Feb. 9 and 10 during Innovation Days on the UW-Madison College of Engineering campus.

In a package about the size of a small computer desk, the winning system uses a flat Fresnel lens to collect the sun’s energy and focus it onto a copper block. Then a unique spray system removes the energy from the copper block and converts it into steam, says inventor Angie Franzke, an engineering mechanics and astronautics senior from Omro, Wisconsin. The steam either heats water for household use or powers a turbine to generate electricity.

Other 2006 Schoofs Prize for Creativity winners include:

* Second place and $7,000 — William Gregory Knowles, for the OmniPresent Community-Based Response Network, a personal, business or industrial security system that draws on networked users and devices to more efficiently verify burglar alarms, fire alarms or medical emergencies.
* Third place and $4,000 — Garret Fitzpatrick, Jon Oiler, Angie Franzke, Peter Kohlhepp and Greg Hoell for the Self-Leveling Wheelchair Tray, a stowable working surface for wheelchairs that self-levels, even when the wheelchair is tilted or reclined up to a 45-degree angle.

Read more about the 2006 competition

2006 Draper Prize for Engineering

Draper Prize for Engineering Medal

2006 Charles Stark Draper Prize Won by Inventors of Charge-coupled Devices

The 2006 Charles Stark Draper Prize will be presented by the National Academy of Engineering to the inventors of charge-coupled devices (CCDs), Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith, on Feb. 21 in Washington , D.C. Boyle and Smith will share the $500,000 prize for inventing CCDs, which are imaging sensors or optical elements that convert light to digital data. CCDs are widely used in consumer products, such as camcorders and cell phone cameras, as well as in advanced electronic imaging tools, such as telescopes and imaging satellites.

CCDs are the first practical solid-state imaging devices. They were invented in 1969 by Boyle and Smith while working at Bell Laboratories. Because CCDs are silicon-based devices, they are fairly inexpensive to produce, compact, and fairly rugged, making them suitable for commercial product use. Their high sensitivity, excellent stability, and lack of distortion make CCDs attractive for use in scientific research imaging systems. CCDs are capable of imaging a variety of sources, including optical, x-ray, ultraviolet, and infrared emissions.

Administered by the National Academy of Engineering, the Draper Prize is endowed by The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc., and was established in 1988. The Prize is awarded for outstanding achievement, particularly innovation and reduction to practice, in engineering and technology contributing to the advancement of the welfare and freedom of humanity. The Prize honors the memory of Draper Laboratory’s founder, Dr. Charles Stark Draper, who pioneered inertial navigation. It is intended to increase public understanding of the contributions of engineering and technology. Originally biennial, the Prize is now awarded annually.

Previous years awards include:
2002: Dr. Robert S. Langer for extraordinary contributions to the bioengineering of revolutionary medical drug delivery systems
2001: Drs. Vinton Cerf, Robert Kahn, Leonard Kleinrock, and Lawrence Roberts for the invention of the Internet