'Garage inventors' is a term used to describe individuals or groups of
inventors that create independently. They are not on a salary or
salary/incentive basis, paid by their companies to invent; they work
alone, on their own or in small groups, generally in someone's garage or other part of the home. Popular Science recognizes the
accomplishments of these independent inventors yearly in the June issue of its
magazine. Here are the 10 winning inventions...
(The following inventions are not ranked; just numbered for convenience.)
1. OneBreath: An Inexpensive Portable Ventilator
OneBreath portable ventilator system with inventor Matthew Callaghan: image via PopSci.com
Inspired by the need to help more patients in a crisis situation, such as a pandemic, postdoc fellow at Stanford University, Matthey Callaghan developed a no-frills ventilator that runs on a 12 volt battery that works for up to 12 hours and can be easily transported.
Because hospital ventilators typically cost from $3,000 to $40,000, hospitals generally would not have enough ventilators for patients who need them in a pandemic. Callahan and a few fellow students took on the ventilator project so that hospitals would be prepared... just in case. Their device uses a $10 pressure sensor like one you would find in a blood pressure monitor. It pumps air into the chest through the mouth and a sensor monitors how much air is in the lungs. Sensor data is fed into a software program to calculate the data, letting the ventilator know when the patient needs air again.
2. KOR-fx: Ultra Sensation Gaming Device
KOR-fx shown by inventor Shahriar S. Afshar: Photo: John B. Carnett, image via PopSci.com
A visiting physics professor at Rowan University, Shahriar S. Afshar is living in campus housing, which makes him subject to the bass vibrations from surrounding gamers' rooms. The interference made it pretty hard for Afshar to get his work done. An inventor since childhood, Afshar invented the KOR-fx as self protection.
The KOR-fx is a device that connects to gaming consoles, PCs, or music players. It sits around the shoulders, and the two transducers that lie on one's chest translate stereo sound into stereo vibrations. That way, gamers can feel complete immersion in their games without involving others who are not playing. “We can induce the sensation of rain, wind, weight shift, even
G-forces,” he said. His company, Immerz, is in talks with several
studios to add these effects to films.
3. SmartSight: A Third Eye For Assault Rifles
SmartSight outfitted rifle, inventor Matthew Hagerty: Photo: John B. Carnett, image via PopSci.com
After 10 years and many prototypes, inventor (and perfectionist) Matthew Hagerty finally is close to what he wanted his invention, the SmartSight, to be: a third eye for soldiers that enable them to see around corners and even behind their backs without putting themselves in the line of fire. SmartSight's latest design includes a 1.5 pound video camera positioned under the end of an assault rifle, a tiny computer that receives the video transmission attached to a soldier's vest, and a tiny display monitor worn on a soldier's protective glasses that receives video images in real time from the computer.
The whole device weighs only three pounds, and though Hagerty says he would like to make the device even lighter, his SmartSight invention, as it is, can save thousands of soldiers' lives from ambushes. Just think about being able to point and shoot a weapon at a target without even physically facing it.
4. EverTune: Guitar Tuning Revolutionized
EverTune, inventors Cosmos Lyles and Paul Dowd: Photo: John B. Carnett, image via PopSci.com
Guitar players and their audiences are in for a shock. Cosmos Lyles and Paul Dowd have invented a guitar tuner you only tune once. Right. Not in the middle of a song, not between songs, not between sets. Just once. EverTune, the pair's invention, is a bridge that keeps your strings in place by the action of six springs and levers that keep the strings' tension, even if your tuning pegs loosen or tighten accidentally. For guitarists, here's a video that explains the EverTune far better than I can!
Lyles and Dowd are in talks with guitar makers to embed EverTune in new
guitars, but EverTunes will be made separately to fit many older
guitars. I'm just wondering what guitarists will do to buy some extra time between sets now... drink some more water, I suppose.
5. SoundBite: Non-Surgical Bone Conduction Hearing Aid For One-Sided Deafness
SoundBite invented by Amir Abolfathi: Image by Paul Wooten via PopSci.com Hearing aids amplify external sounds for those that have some residual hearing. But when the cochlea (the auditory portion of the inner ear) doesn't function, hearing aids don't do any good. For single-sided cochlea-involved deafness, there is a transplantable titanium device implanted to the base of the skull nicknamed BAHA. But Amir Abolfathi, former Invisalign vice president, came up with a new idea while sitting in traffic one day. (That's when inventors get their best ideas!)
Knowing that teeth are excellent sound conductors to bone, he thought why not create a bone conduction aid from the mouth. With the help of an otolaryngologist, Abolfathi developed the SoundBite, an acrylic tooth insert (a custom-molded retainer) with a receiver that picks up sound from an in-ear microphone and then transmits the sound from the teeth to the bone up the jawline to the cochlea.
In clinical trials, typical reports from patients in tests if the device were that the SoundBite restored 80 to 100 percent of their hearing.
6. Groasis Waterboxx: A Biomimetic Planter
Groasis Waterboxx, inventor Pieter Hoff: Photo: John B. Carnett, image via PopSci.com
In his past life as a flower exporter, Pieter Hoff often oversaw the evening activities of his lilies. He noticed that the plants collected condensation on their leaves and the water droplets were sucked in by the leaves as they cooled. Mimicking nature's efficient watering system, Hoff developed a planter that could capture water in the same manner to foster sapling trees even in harsh conditions.
The Groasis Waterboxx is designed as a plant incubator, which cools faster than the night air, allowing water to condense and flow into it along with rainwater to keep the plant and its roots hydrated and protected. Hoff's tests of the Waterboxx in the Sahara have been quite successful; after one year of growing saplings in the desert, 88 percent of the trees he planted had green leaves, while 90 percent of those planted in the local method died from the scorching sun. Check out groasis.com and help test these Waterboxxes!
7. Zoggles: Anti-Fog Device
Zoggle inventors Don A Skomsky and Valerie Palfy: Photo: John B. Carnett, image via PopSci.com
device you see on Don Skomsky in the above photo is a Zoggles, but
Zoggles is actually a whole technology that Skomsky and Valerie Palfy invented to
keep fog from forming on lenses and windows. The pair created a device
with a humidity sensor and a temperature sensor that would stay colder
than, say, a windshield, so they would sense when fog was coming and
would turn on an automobile's defroster.
But Skomsky was able to
use an obscure formula to predict when fog would form based on the
temperature and humidity, so that the bulky controls could all fit on a
chip. The Zoggles now operate with that chip, which calculates
when the lens needs to be heated and activates a heater that shuts off
when it is no longer needed. Palfy and Skomsky are planning to license
their technology to manufacturers of motorcycle helmets, windshields,
scuba masks, and military gear.
8. Mini Infuser: Foolproof Programmable, Disposable Infusion Drug Pump
Mini Infuser invented by Mark Banister: Photo: John B. Carnett, image via PopSci.com
Mark Banister wasn't on his way to developing the first programmable infusion drug pump, but while investigating another idea, the infusion pump idea grabbed him. After working with an incubator program at the Arizona Center for Innovation, he was able to develop this drug pump in a way that could save hospitals money and make patients feel a whole lot more secure.
The Mini Infuser is the only disposable drug pump that can be programmed to dispense drugs continuously. Taped to the patient's chest, a microprocessor inside the pump sends dosage information to the polymer that Bannister developed to deliver the correct dosages. Upon receipt of dosage information, this special polymer will expand and displace the proper dosage from the reservoir within the pump where the drugs are stored.
9. ECO-Auger: Fish-Saving Tidal Energy Turbine
ECO-Auger, invented by W. Scott Anderson: Photo: John B. Carnett, image via PopSci.com
Windmill turbines that convert tidal energy into electricity are costly and involve permanent installations that may harm marine life. W. Scott Anderson, an industrial engineer, invented a simpler, less invasive tidal energy converter that's less costly and more marine-friendly. It uses an auger, a spiral-shaped device that has tapered ends, so as not to harm fish. When the current spins the auger, it induces a hydraulic pump in the nosecone of the device to pump high pressure oil that turns a generator outside of the water.
Though Anderson had made several small prototypes of the ECO-auger to test function and safety around fish, he has hand-crafted his first large prototype that has a two-foot diameter and a polyurethane/ fiberglass auger. In a test, Anderson said it captured 14 percent of the water's energy, which is not as much as the windmill turbines, but Anderson says the percentage will go up as the diameter of the augers increase. He is sure that ultimately the ECO-Auger will be more cost effective and just as productive as the windmill turbine.
10. RAD Technology: A Drag-Ready Snowmobile
RAD Technology, invented by Shawn Watling: Photo: John B. Carnett, image via PopSci.com
Shawn Watling, a self-taught engineer, has created the first rear-drive, adjustable rear suspension snowmobile that is faster, safer, and more efficient than the snowmobiles produced today. Snowmobile racing since he was only 9 months old (presumably as a passenger), the 35 year old Watling decided to put together his own snowmobile out of a scrapped ATV, a 130 horsepower snowmobile motor and transmission to drag race on his local drag strip.
The 'Frankenstein' was fast, and a dynamometer test revealed that 85 percent of its engine power was delivered to the ground, while a typical snowmobile only hit about 55 percent. This result led him to discover that it was the rear suspension on front drive manufactured snowmobiles that increased rolling resistance and prevented adequate track tension.
Since Frankenstein, Watling's rear-drive prototypes have been numerous, but five years later he has made corrections in everything that slows a snowmobile down, and his RAD (rear-axle-drive) Technology has also produced a safer snowmobile that's more fuel efficient.
Many of the 2010 Popular Science invention winners actually did report having worked in their garages - literally. But no matter where they worked, these inventors, who took five or ten or even more years to reach a final prototype of their inventions, are truly inspiring and InventorSpot wholeheartedly congratulates them. If you would like to read more information about the winners and their inventions, pop over to PopSci.com.
Here, you can find the 2009 winners of the Popular Science invention awards.