†Our March 6 cover story on inventor Jerome Lemelson, the 1995 Design
News Engineer of the Year, triggered a flood of calls and letters from our
readers. Most came from disillusioned engineers who could not get their pet
inventions beyond the idea stage and were looking for some advice from Lemelson,
one of the most successful inventors in U.S. history with some 500 patents.
One engineer responding to the article--Lyle Haugland of Boeing--provided what I thought was an excellent analysis of frustrated would-be inventors. He calls them "The Golden Handcuffs Generation." These are individuals who for various reasons cannot, or think they cannot, pull away from their careers and other commitments enough to bring their innovative ideas to fruition. As Haugland sees it, the actual or imagined "handcuffs" that keep these engineers from following their dreams include:
Marriage and family commitments and responsibilities.
Careers that aren't successful enough to make one financially independent, yet still rewarding enough to discourage the pursuit of riskier but more creative endeavors.
Companies that lay claim to an employee's inventive ideas, regardless of whether or not they are developed on company time or apply to company products.
Lack of education or knowledge of how to patent, develop, and market ideas.
Inadequate support from spouses, relatives, friends, and peers.
Lack of enough good judgment to know how to spend their limited creative time and financial resources.
Haugland has given invention a great deal of thought as a former process improvement expert for the Boeing Defense & Space Group. He argues that corporations and schools could do a lot more to remove the constraints that frustrate creative engineers. More colleges should offer courses in invention and innovation development and marketing. Companies should allow talented engineers to take paid or unpaid sabbaticals to pursue their inventions. Still another need: marketing companies that do not charge individuals until an invention is commercially viable.
All of these are good ideas that could encourage more engineers to conquer their fears and act on their dreams. If you know of such programs, please let us know about them, and we'll spread the word.
Festo's BionicKangaroo combines pneumatic and electrical drive technology, plus very precise controls and condition monitoring. Like a real kangaroo, the BionicKangaroo robot harvests the kinetic energy of each takeoff and immediately uses it to power the next jump.
Design News and Digi-Key presents: Creating & Testing Your First RTOS Application Using MQX, a crash course that will look at defining a project, selecting a target processor, blocking code, defining tasks, completing code, and debugging.
These are the toys that inspired budding engineers to try out sublime designs, create miniature structures, and experiment with bizarre contraptions using sets that could be torn down and reconstructed over and over.
PowerStream is deploying the microgrid at its headquarters to demonstrate how people can generate and distribute their own energy and make their homes and businesses more sustainable through renewables.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.