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Riata Center releases list of Cowboy100 honorees

Our beloved Chief Executive Officer, Denise McIntosh was named to list of upcoming honorees for the Riata Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to honor the third Cowboy100 Honoree Gala celebrating the business and leadership achievements of OSU graduate-owned or -led businesses. The gala will be held on March 29 at the Wes Watkins Center in Stillwater.

The Cowboy100 serves as a resource for students to engage with industry leaders, allows the Riata Center to be the reference point for entrepreneurship throughout the university and to raise funds for the Riata Center’s student programs and activities.

As part of the Cowboy100, the highest top-line revenue generating honorees for the years being measured are recognized on the Blazing10 list. While the overall list celebrates growth, the Blazing10 focuses primarily on top-line revenue, another important measure of business success.

“We are happy to release the list of the 2024 Cowboy100 honorees,” said Marc Tower, assistant dean for Outreach and Economic Development at the Spears School of Business. “The quality and diversity of this group is inspiring. We have companies and leaders from multiple industries, and from companies large and small. It is exciting to celebrate and share the hard work and success of these outstanding OSU graduates and Cowboy leaders. We look forward to celebrating their achievements on March 29.”

For more information and the complete list:

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Accidental Invention: Post-it® Notes

Since their introduction in 1980, Post-it® Notes have become indispensable for communication, collaboration, and creativity. But did you know they resulted from a “failure” and the ingenuity of one scientist combined with the innovation and persistence of another?

Post-it® Notes, those small sticky pieces of paper now ubiquitous in offices and homes worldwide, are perfect for quick note-taking, doodling, and leaving reminders wherever needed. They are a testament to the ingenuity of inventors and the way a simple idea can turn into something even more helpful than expected.

An Idea that Stuck

In the early 1960s, 3M scientist Dr. Spencer Silver tried to develop a new class of adhesives but ended up creating microspheres – a weak, pressure-sensitive adhesive instead. While it wasn’t exactly what he set out to create, he saw the potential in his invention and spent years trying to find a practical application for it. He even shared his invention with colleagues at 3M to help brainstorm ideas, but initially, no one was interested.

That is until a fellow 3M employee named Art Fry came up with the idea to use the weak adhesive to create a bookmark for his hymnal that wouldn’t fall out. He then considered using the adhesive for paper notes, and the first “Press ‘n Peel” was born.

The product initially struggled to gain consumer interest, but 3M soon introduced a new marketing strategy: the “Boise Blitz,” changing the name to “Post-it® Notes” and giving them away to focus groups in 12 different states. Following this campaign, it was evident that the product had enough potential to be officially released.

A Noteworthy Product

As soon as they hit the shelves in 1980, Post-it® Notes quickly became a hit, seamlessly integrating into the modern world of work and communication and becoming a note-taking staple in schools, offices, and homes everywhere. They were practical and promoted creativity and collaboration, used as a tool for brainstorming and sharing ideas.

Even today, with the rise of the internet and digital communication, it might seem like physical notes would become obsolete. Still, the simplicity and tactile nature of Post-it® Notes has kept them relevant. They have also evolved to meet the needs of the modern world. There are now Post-it® Notes designed for use with digital tools, such as the Post-it® App, which allows users to capture and organize their notes digitally.

A Hand-Written Success Story

Beyond their original purpose in work and educational spaces, Post-it® Notes have also been used for everything from fashion to art installations. During London Fashion Week in 2017, Fyodor Golan sent several models down the runway in Post-it® themed clothing. In June 2020, a mural called “Stick Together Houston” was created using Post-it® Notes that read “RESILIENT,” with the name of a “resilient” individual on each piece of paper.

Today, the Post-it® brand boasts over 1,000 products and is sold in over 150 countries worldwide – a feat even the inventors never expected. In an interview, Dr. Silver said, “The fact that they’ve just exploded as a product is more than I could ever hope for.”

The creation of Post-it® Notes by Spencer Silver and Art Fry is a reminder that sometimes the greatest inventions result from a happy accident. They are an example of the power of perseverance and the ability to see the potential in an invention, even if it wasn’t initially intended for that purpose.

If you enjoyed this accidental invention story, you might also like the ones about silly putty and microwave ovens.

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Inventions Ahead of Their Time: Vending Machines

While vending machines are sometimes seen as an example of modern conveniences and consumerism, they are not recent inventions. The very first iteration was designed over TWO THOUSAND years ago!

Vending machines have become a common fixture outside stores, schools, office buildings, and many other places, dispensing everything from snacks to clothing. We have several inventors to thank for this, whose ideas evolved significantly into the machines we utilize today.

A Drachma for Some Water

At some point around the mid-first century (as in when years were in double digits!), a Greek inventor by the name of Heron of Alexandria was searching for a way to efficiently dispense holy water to temple-goers to ensure they did not take more than their fair share.

After some experimentation, Heron created a machine that used the weight of an inserted coin to temporarily hold down a lever that opened and closed a door that the water came out of. This made the whole process automatic and turned holy water into a source of revenue for priests. While the design was an effective solution, it surprisingly was not developed further until hundreds of years later.

Automatic Selling Devices

Another version of these machines was seen in the early 17th century when coin-activated snuff and tobacco boxes became prevalent in English inns and taverns. However, these contraptions were slightly different and operated more like the “honor system” newspaper dispensers we see today. When a patron inserted their payment, a lever would open the lid, and they would be trusted to take the equivalent product they paid for.

Several more iterations were developed to sell additional products such as stamps, handkerchiefs, cigarettes, postcards, and even fortunes. Some of the first patents for the “fully-automatic selling devices” were awarded to Simeon Denham in England, Carlade in Germany, Percival Everitt in the United Kingdom, and W. H. Fruen in The United States.

Finally, in 1888, Thomas Adams, founder of the Adams Gum Company, created a machine that dispensed packs of Tutti-Frutti chewing gum and was placed on the platforms of New York rail stations. The venture was incredibly successful and began “practical vending” in America.

Machines of Convenience

Vending machines were a marvel, as they offered a new way of distributing goods that didn’t require a salesperson or cashier. The convenience of purchasing goods 24/7 without human interaction was a game-changer. And as a result, vending machines quickly became popular in the early 1900s, and by the 1920s, they were prevalent in train stations, post offices, and factories.

In the following century, vending machines continued to evolve and, today, dispense everything from snacks and drinks to personal care items and electronics. They’ve also become more sophisticated, with digital screens and cashless payment options, and can even make fresh foods like pizza, milkshakes, and coffee. As of 2021, the global vending machine industry is estimated to be worth nearly $52 billion and is expected to grow significantly in the coming years.

These innovative machines were an invention ahead of their time, revolutionizing how goods are distributed and significantly benefitting both consumers and merchants alike. They will likely evolve as technology advances, making them even more convenient and accessible to the public.

For more stories about food-related appliances, check out Mothers Of Invention: Josephine Cochrane And The Dishwasher and Accidental Invention: Microwave Oven.

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Inventions Ahead of Their Time: Heinz’s Switch to Electricity

Quick! What’s the first brand name that comes to mind when you think of ketchup? If you said anything other than Heinz, we’d be surprised. Heinz has been a beloved condiment brand for over 150 years, largely thanks to its continuous innovative use of efficient energy sources.

Heinz is a well-known global food company renowned for producing a wide variety of unique sauces and other condiments.

A little over a century ago, Heinz’s switch from steam power to electricity was a significant turning point for the company and the food industry as a whole, as it paved the way for further improvements in production processes and set the stage for the continued use of different forms of energy in the future.

Running on Manpower

When Heinz began its operations in 1869, it mainly relied on manual labor and steam power. This meant that much of the production process was done by hand, with workers performing tasks such as peeling, cutting, and cooking ingredients. Steam power was used to run equipment such as boilers and pumps, providing the necessary energy for production.

This method of operation was typical for food companies at the time, but it had several limitations. It was labor-intensive, time-consuming, and often resulted in inconsistent quality and output. As a result, businesses were eager to improve their operations and increase efficiency. The use of electrical power offered a solution to these challenges, and many companies, including Heinz, enthusiastically made the switch.

Operating with Electricity

While the move from steam power to electricity was an enticing prospect, it had to occur gradually over time. The process involved the installation of new and complicated electrical infrastructure, such as generators and power distribution systems, and procuring of new electrically-powered machines. The company also needed to train its workers on using the latest equipment and adjust its production processes to accommodate the changes.

Once the switch to electrical power was finally complete, Heinz began seeing positive results. By implementing the new tools and operating procedures, the company could effectively speed up its production processes, reduce the effort required for manual labor, improve the consistency and quality of its food products, and reduce overall costs. These results largely contributed to the company’s success and growth in its early years.

Moving to Renewable Energy

With the advent of new technologies, Heinz has continued to invest in state-of-the-art equipment and machines that consume less energy and generate less waste, such as using electric vehicles and other electric-powered equipment in its logistics operations. So far, this has helped improve supply chain efficiency and reduce the company’s carbon footprint.

As part of its commitment to becoming a more environmentally-responsible business, Heinz has also begun to take advantage of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, to generate electricity for its production process. This has not only helped the company to reduce its emissions and dependence on fossil fuels but also its overall energy costs and has led to an improvement in the air quality in the communities in which it operates.

Since their initial switch from steam power to electricity in the early 20th century, Heinz has been a forerunner in implementing more efficient and effective processes. By embracing new technologies and renewable energy sources in recent years, the company has improved its operations and reduced costs and has effectively become a more environmentally conscious business. As a result, Heinz continues to be a leader in the food industry and a role model for other companies.

For more stories about impressive innovations in the food industry, check out Accidental Invention: Corn Flakes and Accidental Invention: Potato Chips.

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Accidental Invention: Motorcycle

What do you get when you put a motor on a bicycle? Well, a motorcycle, of course! Today, these vehicles are commonly used as a recreational form of transportation, but did you know they were invented in 1885 – one whole year before the automobile?

The invention of motorcycles was a significant milestone in the history of transportation, combining the speed and convenience of a bicycle with the power and stability of an engine. Over the past 130 years, motorcycles have continued to evolve and improve, becoming one of the most popular and beloved modes of transportation for riders worldwide.

A Bicycle with an Engine

In the late 19th century, German engineers Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach left their jobs working for Nikolaus Otto (inventor of the four-stroke internal combustion engine) to start their experimental engine-building workshop. They eventually developed the Grandfather Clock engine, the world’s first small high-speed internal combustion engine to run on gasoline. To prove that it could power a vehicle, Daimler and Maybach designed, built, and patented the Daimler Reitwagen (“Riding Car”).

Though it was not exactly what they initially set out to create, this first iteration of a gasoline-powered motorized bicycle was a wooden-framed machine with two wheels, a handlebar for steering, and a seat for the ride. It could reach speeds of up to 15 mph. Despite its primitive design, the Daimler Reitwagen was a revolutionary invention, as it opened the doors to a faster, more efficient mode of solo transportation than the existing bicycle.

(Side Note: It is worth mentioning that some consider the first motorcycle to be either the Michaux-Perreaux or the Roper steam velocipedes, both built ca. 1868. However, most authorities do not see them as “true” motorcycles because they were not powered by gasoline.)

Bigger, Better, and Faster Bikes

Nine years later, Hildebrand & Wolfmuller created the first mass-produced motorized, two-wheeled vehicle sold to the public. It was the first machine to be officially called a “motorcycle” (motorrad in German) and was built with two cylinders with connecting rods attached directly to the rear wheel. While it could reach up to an impressive 28 mph, it was expensive and did not feature a clutch or pedals, so only about 2,000 were produced in total due to stiff competition and low demand.
After the success of the Daimler Reitwagen, other inventors and engineers began to develop their designs for motorcycles. In the early 1900s, motorcycles were built with an engine and brakes that worked with a lever instead of the pedals and could operate using less fuel.

Companies such as Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle soon began popping up in the United States, quickly becoming leaders in the industry and still producing motorcycles to this day.

Keeping it Moving

Throughout the 20th century, vehicles continued to evolve and improve. The invention of the electric starter made motorcycles easier to start and ride, while advances in engine technology allowed for faster speeds and enhanced performance. In the 1970s and 1980s, Japanese motorcycle companies such as Honda, Yamaha, and Suzuki became major players in the industry, producing high-quality and reliable motorcycles that were popular and more affordable worldwide.

Today, motorcycles are an integral part of modern transportation, with millions of riders using them for commuting and recreation. In addition to their practical use, motorcycles have also become a symbol of freedom and adventure, inspiring countless riders to hit the open road and explore the world on two wheels.

So, where will your ideas take you, and how can we help you get there?

For more transportation-related innovations, check out Inventions Ahead of Their Time: The Electric Car and Napkin Sketch: A Non-Stop Flight Around The World.

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Mothers of Invention: Grace Hopper

Naval officer, teacher, and one of the most celebrated computer scientists in United States history, Grace Hopper, invented groundbreaking technologies that forever changed how we interact with computers and process information.

Grace Hopper was an American computer scientist and United States Navy officer who revolutionized computer technology with her ground-breaking programming languages and software. Her remarkable accomplishments shaped her into an inspirational role model for generations of women to come.

An Exceptionally Educated Woman

Grace Brewster (Murray) Hopper was born in New York City on December 9, 1906. From an early age, Grace was academically gifted, skipping multiple grades and eventually graduating Phi Beta Kappa (the oldest and most prestigious academic honor society in the United States) from Vassar College in 1928 with a degree in mathematics and physics.

Receiving her education during a time of elevated opportunity for women, Grace was fortunate enough to be part of a generation who earned advanced degrees at a rate that would not be matched for another half-century. Because of this, she obtained both a master’s and a doctorate in mathematics from Yale University in 1930 and 1934, respectively.

A Scientifically Gifted Naval Officer

When the US entered WWII, Grace insisted on contributing to the war efforts despite being initially rejected due to her age and small stature. She was eventually accepted into the U.S. Naval Reserve (Women’s Reserve) in December 1943, where she was assigned to the Bureau of Ships Computation Project. There, she began working as a research assistant for Professor Howard Aiken at Harvard University, who had just developed the first electromechanical digital computer known as the “Mark I.”

Through this work, Grace soon began to see the potential of this technology, writing the first-ever computer manual, A Manual of Operation for the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (1946), and becoming one of the first three computer “programmers” ever.

As war efforts continued, Grace remained at Harvard, working on top-secret calculations (like computing rocket trajectories, creating range tables for new anti-aircraft guns, and calibrating minesweepers) and helping to develop the Mark II and Mark III computers. (Fun Fact: During this time, the research team found a large moth inside one of the machines causing functionality issues, leading Grace to coin the term “debugging” a computer.) 

An Intergenerational and Inspirational Inventor

Grace Hopper proved to be a true pioneer in the computer industry as she joined the Eckert-Mauchly Corporation in 1949, where she helped develop UNIVAC I (the first commercial all-electronic computer) and invented the first computer language compiler, which translated programmers’ written instructions into binary code that the machines could read directly.

As technology continued to develop, a necessity for a standardized computer language arose, inspiring the creation of COBOL (a common business-oriented language) in 1959. After co-developing the tool, Grace promoted its use in both the military and private sectors through lectures and advocacy work. By the 1970s, COBOL was the “most extensively used computer language” in the world, and she was called in to use it to help standardize the navy’s computer languages.

Through her years of military service, Grace eventually earned the rank of Rear Admiral, was awarded a Defense Distinguished Service Medal (the highest decoration given to non-combat members) and was the oldest officer (age 79) on active U.S. naval duty when she retired in 1986. She was additionally presented with Yale’s Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal in 1972, the National Medal of Technology in 1991, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously in 2016.

Before Grace’s inventions, computers were large, unwieldy machines that used punch cards for programming, and only a select few people could interact with them. Her work as a mathematician, scientist, and teacher advanced the field of computer science exponentially, allowing greater accessibility for many generations to come.

To hear more stories about professional women whose perseverance has made them inspirational figures in their fields, check out our podcast, The Art of Engineering.

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Seven of the Largest, Loudest, and Longest Drum-Related World Records

Did you know that the world’s largest drum is nearly 20 feet tall and weighs over 15,000 pounds?! At CPS, we love learning about impressive feats of human ingenuity and sharing what we know with you! Read on to find out more about this incredible Korean instrument and other record-setting drums around the globe.

The use of drums can be traced back to at least 5500 BC when they were used in religious ceremonies and other celebrations by ancient Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, Mesopotamian, and Roman cultures. Over the last several millenniums, the instrument and its uses have significantly evolved, and today, it is played for all different purposes by millions of musicians worldwide.

Here are a few of our favorite world records from recent years set by drummers all around the globe:

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Largest Drum

(July 6, 2011) The largest drum in the world is a traditional Korean “CheonGo” drum that Yeong Dong-Gun, Seuk Je Lee, and local government members made. It measures 18’2” in diameter, is 19’6” tall, and weighs a whopping 7 tonnes – that’s over 15,000 pounds!

Guinness World Records – largest drum

Largest Drum Set

(March 21, 2013) Dr. Mark Temperato of Lakeville, New York, is the proud owner of the world’s largest drum set which comprises 813 pieces. It takes four people to assemble in fifteen hours and has increased in size for over 30 years.

Largest Drum Ensemble

(June 29, 2007) To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China, the Hong Kong Federation of Young Groups assembled the world’s largest drum ensemble to play at the “Dragon Jamboree” concert. 10,045 drummers from Hong Kong, mainland China, Macau, and Taiwan gathered for the event at the Hong Kong Coliseum.

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Guinness World Records – loudest drum hit by a crowd

Loudest Simultaneous Drum Hit by a Crowd

(May 25, 2019) Organized by Oscar Martinez Escamilla, over 100 drummers gathered in Quintanar de la Orden, Toledo, Spain, to achieve the loudest simultaneous drum hit by a crowd. The sound measured 127.7 decibels (s) (C-weighted), which is approximately equivalent to hearing a jet engine take off 200 feet away.

Longest Drumming Marathon by an Individual

(August 19, 2015) To increase awareness and raise funds for Cardiac Kids in support of the SickKids Foundation, Steve Gaul performed the longest marathon drumming by an individual in Burlington, Ontario, Canada, for 134 hours and 5 minutes.

Longest Group Drum Roll

(May 3, 2014) In honor of the 350th anniversary of the Royal Marines, the Corps of Drums of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Band Service (UK) performed the world’s longest group drum roll by taking turns playing the same single snare drum for a total of 64 hr 27 min 59 sec.

Longest Line of Drums

(February 19, 2019) Composed of 2,020 drums, the Haidong Municipal People’s Government celebrated the Chinese Lantern Festival by assembling the world’s longest line of drums, which measured 1,593 ft 7 in.

While we’re not quite all CPS musicians, we know a lot about drums – storage drums, that is! In fact, drum conditioning is one of our specialties. Check out our drum massagers, and see why they are the best choice for removing hardened processing materials from inside your drums.

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Engineering Marvels: Palm Island, Dubai

What do you think it takes to build an island? How about one that is very specifically shaped like a tree? The engineers behind Palm Island in Dubai had to take a lot of things into consideration while constructing the incredible vacation spot.

Off the coast of Dubai, you will find a very uniquely-shaped island: Palm Jumeirah. This man-made tropical getaway spot is shaped like a palm tree with 17 fronds and hosts numerous hotels and vacation homes. Due to its location and design, the project also took quite a few specialized resources to complete, making it an awe-inspiring feat of architectural engineering.

A Palm Tree-Shaped Paradise

To diversify the local economy from its main source of income, oil, the prime minister of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed, has spent the last several decades building up the city’s tourism industry.

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In June of 2001, one of the most significant developments in the area began construction: Palm Island (Jumeirah). The master plan for the project was drawn up by Helman Hurley Charvat Peacock, an American architectural firm, and managed by Nakheel, a real estate company now owned by the government of Dubai.

Over the course of the next six years, the island’s infrastructure was built, soon followed by the construction of several hotels and vacation homes. Today, nearly 80,000 people reside on the island, surrounded by beaches and warm gulf water.

Unique Tools and Resources

Due to its unique shape, Palm Island took extensive, careful planning, specialized tools, and specific materials to build. Because of this, the project cost approximately $12 billion to complete.

The island was constructed from reclaimed materials, including 120 million cubic meters of sand from the Persian Gulf and 7 million tons of rocks from the Hajar mountains. Amazingly, no steel or concrete was used while building the main infrastructure. To prevent the sand from eroding from the surrounding water, a technique called rainbowing is used to spray sand and other material onto the island.

To ensure the island was shaped exactly to the plan, the construction team utilized satellites and GPS to precisely measure and place the building materials.

Other Considerations

Because the island was made out of natural materials, it is extra prone to erosion from the surrounding water. To combat this, the builders incorporated breakwaters around the perimeter of the island that helps to protect it from large waves and strong winds. These structures are also not continuous and feature spaces to allow the water to still flow and not be stagnant.

When altering a geological area, there is also a high probability that the local ecosystem will be disturbed. To help prevent liquefaction of the sand and disruption of the surrounding area, a technique called vibro-compaction was used to help improve the sturdiness of the island’s base. Additionally, approximately every six weeks, divers visit the coastal aquatic ecosystem to monitor the condition of the local wildlife and environment.

In the original plan, two more similar yet much larger islands, Palm Jebel Ali and Palm Deira, were designed to add even more areas for tourists to visit. However, construction has remained indefinitely on hold due to economic concerns.

What other types of unique destinations will we see engineers create next?

We at Custom Powder Systems appreciate marvels worldwide and love to travel. Here are some of our stories from visiting Dalian, China, and Ras Laffan, Qatar.

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Inventions Ahead of Their Time: NASA Tools

If you’ve got a memory foam mattress you love dearly, you’ve got NASA to thank for that. Temper foam, cochlear implants, and portable computers are just a few of NASA’s incredible inventions that were used for space exploration long before they became everyday items in society.

It’s no secret that space travel requires some pretty advanced technology. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is America’s civil space program whose mission is to “explore, discover, and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity.”

Over the years, NASA has designed technology that has often been ahead of its time. Many of these tools that were created for space travel have evolved into essential technologies we use every day.

Wireless Headphones

In 1961, following a space shuttle incident in which a pilot could not contact his recovery team after the cabin flooded and took out all radio connections, NASA started searching for a self-contained radio transceiver that could be integrated into a helmet. At the time, ITT Labs had recently developed their MS-50 Headset, which used an acoustic tube connected to tiny transducers as both a microphone and receiver. This headset was soon incorporated into a radio receiver called a Kellorad unit that also featured noise-canceling technology.

Eventually, the design found its way into home and office products, creating those Bluetooth headphones you use daily.

Computer Mouse

In the early 1960s, NASA scientist Bob Taylor was “on the lookout for new ways of using computers to make them more useful, more interactive in some sense.” At the time, computers were used simply as arithmetic machines, but Bob and NASA researcher Doug Englebart had more ideas. Together, a project began to develop a device that would help manipulate data and allow humans to be more involved with computing systems.

These ideas expanded past just a computer mouse, as Doug wanted to “develop a way for capturing and sharing wide ranges of information among a group of people who are working cooperatively toward some end.” Thus, the futuristic concept of computers being used with displays, keyboards, and mouses was developed, which eventually led to the types of machines we now use every day.

Memory Foam

In 1966, NASA’s Ames Research Center was working on developing a material that was both soft and super shock-absorbing to help protect pilots in the event of a crash. This polymeric temper foam not only helped cushion seats for impact but also made them more comfortable for the ride.

Once memory foam became available commercially, its uses became practically limitless. It has been used to cushion helmets, car seats, bike seats, military gear, and, of course, those oh-so-cushy mattresses.

Cochlear Implant

In the 1970s, NASA engineer Adam Kissiah Jr., inspired by his struggles with conventional hearing aids, began experimenting with new designs. Using his background knowledge in electronic sensing systems, telemetry, and sound and vibration sensors, Adam created a new type of hearing aid that would also clarify sounds and amplify them.

Adam’s cochlear implant uses digital pulses to stimulate auditory nerve endings and send signals to the brain. Today, over 219,000 patients have received these revolutionary devices, allowing many born deaf to hear for the first time.


In 2013, the Johnson Space Center (JSC) Engineering Directorate built R5 (aka Valkyrie) to compete in the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Trials. This entirely electric bipedal humanoid robot was a first for NASA and was designed to be capable of operating in degraded or damaged human-engineered environments. Ideally, the robot could assist on missions by testing travel and performing human-like tasks where it could be potentially dangerous to send a real person.

With advanced sensors and a body full of maneuverable joints, Val is considered to be one of the most sophisticated robots in existence.

For more stories about influential designs and inspirational innovators, check out our podcast, The Art of Engineering.

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Mothers of Invention: Hedy Lamarr

Did you know that “The Most Beautiful Woman in Film” was also responsible for the ideas behind what we now know as WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth technology? Here are some insights into the incredible mind and talent of Hedy Lamarr.

It is hard to find a better example of “Beauty and Brains” than Hedy Lamarr. While she is best known for her iconic film roles in early Hollywood, Hedy was also an incredibly talented and intelligent inventor. The latter laid the foundation for several types of wireless communication we constantly utilize today.

A Creative and Intellectual Mind

Born in Vienna, Austria, on November 9th, 1914, Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler was the only child of two affluent parents who cared deeply about developing her mind creatively and intellectually. Hedy’s father spent a great deal of time explaining the interworkings of various machines and encouraging her to look at the world with open eyes. At the same time, her mother nurtured her artistic side by facilitating ballet and piano lessons.

While she was known to be found tinkering with machines and had a significant intellectual promise from a young age, Heady’s acting career quickly took prominence after she starred in the 1932 German film Extase (“Extasy”). Soon after, she caught the attention of MGM executives, signed a lucrative film contract, and starred in the Oscar-nominated films Algiers, Sampson and Delilah.

A Talented Actress and Inventor

After moving to Hollywood and officially changing her name, Hedy Lamarr lived a dual lifestyle as a film star and inventor. While the media industry regarded her as the “Most Beautiful Woman in Film,” Hedy spent most of her downtime embracing her scientific side. She had an impressive inventing table at her house and was even gifted small equipment set to work within her trailer between filming scenes.

Her most notable designs include a faster airplane wing, an improved stoplight, and a water-dissolvable tablet that would make a soda similar to a cola. However, during WWII, perhaps her greatest invention came: a secret communication system in which   both transmitter and receiver radio waves would “hop” to new frequencies together. This concept would help guide torpedos to their intended targets without enemy interception of classified military strategies, signals, and messages. 

A Feminist Bombshell

Though Hedy’s revolutionary idea received a patent, it expired before the concept was effectively put to use. Years later, “frequency hopping” became an essential tool in military operations and, subsequently, the telecommunications industry, paving the way for modern-day devices like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. Though the U.S. military has since publicly acknowledged the significant impact of Hedy’s invention on technological advancements, her estate has never gotten compensation for her work on what started a now $30 billion industry.

Hedy Lamarr was a woman who was most revered for her beauty but personally found her brain to be her true calling. She was recognized with awards for her accomplishments later in her life. In 2014, she was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for the development of her frequency hopping technology. Her legacy of many talents was shared in the 2017 film, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, highlighting her acting credits and incredible inventor’s spirit.

“Hope and curiosity about the future seemed better than guarantees. That’s the way I was. The unknown was always so attractive to me and still is.” – Hedy Lamarr.

To hear more stories about professional women whose perseverance has made them inspirational figures in their fields, check out our podcast, The Art of Engineering.

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