DIY Inventors and Makers
By Diadon Acs
iPads, social networking, 3D printing, electric plug-in vehicles, artificial hearts – these inventions and innovations are a testament to man’s creativity and capability. But how about a twister fork that keeps pasta from annoyingly sliding off, a goldfish-shaped egg separator that sucks up the yolks and a spaghetti measuring tool that separates adult, small and family portions? Have we whetted your appetite for more DIY inventions and the people behind them?
Do-it-yourself inventions can range from the useful to the bizarre. Some are inventors’ pet projects while others are inspired by a desire to solve real-world problems, no matter how inconsequential or important they may appear to you and me! For instance, Liu Wangyong is a Chinese grassroots inventor whose creations focus on his village’s traditions. Liu made headlines after demonstrating his interesting invention: an improvised bicycle held afloat on water by plastic tubes.
If the vision of a man on some sort of a ‘sea bicycle’ does not seem appealing, you will definitely like the simple yet effective DIY bicycle stand developed by eighth graders from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Inexpensive bicycle stand by savvy school-goers
After school kids at Madurai’s ELSP SSATN Panchayat Union Middle School decided that they could not let their bicycles fall in their cycle stand-bereft school parking lot, they took it upon themselves to find the solution to their daily problem.
They first considered ropes and tires to hold the bicycles in place, and then figured that a DIY stand with PVC pipes, a long (80 feet) metal string and Velcro tapes would do the trick. They strung the pipes across the string and tied each side of the string to two poles on either end of the parking lot. When parking their ride, the kids simply tie the Velcro tapes around the bicycle carrier. As Velcro offers strong holding power, the bikes now don’t fall over due to heavy wind or the fault of messy student parkers.
Courageous inventions from conflict zones
Residents of the Gaza Strip face a severe electricity crisis. In the self-governing territory, people are increasingly applying their inventive powers to live at least a semi-comfortable life. Among them is Abdullah Abu Zir, whose answer to the electricity shortage is a re-purposed motor propelled by compressed air.
His fellow Gazans are also being forced to put on their thinking caps. Some have built home generators by learning how to wire cables on the internet while a female engineer has developed asphalt from rubber and local resources. For more information on Gaza’s DIY inventors, please read this article.
Open Source Innovation
Since 1991, when Linus Torvalds decided to make his software open to modification, some industry leaders probably thought he was stuck on a dying idea of academia. In the 1950s and 60s when computers were distributed through universities, the operating codes were open for anyone to modify.
This gave rise to what we know today as the hacking culture. These hackers have been burning up keyboards and deciphering lines of codes for decades now.
Software is not the only open sourced technology that has been placed in the public domain. Recently, Tesla made their patents open sourced in order to encourage other car companies to create more electric cars. This was also likely an incentive to get new generations of engineers thinking about what can be done to improve EVs (Electric Vehicles). It was a bold move by the Musk’s to try to improve manufacturing and help bring more EV’s to the world. No other company that I am aware of has open sourced their patents to the rest of the manufacturing world in such an innovative way.
Probably, the most amazing example of open sourcing is found in the medical field. A man by the name of Jonas Edward Salk discovered a way to get the body to recognize and fight off polio in 1955. He could have patented his discovery and built a company around his research to sell the vaccine. Instead, he put on a public campaign to make everyone aware of how to create the vaccine, as well as distribute it and almost completely eliminated the polio virus in the US. When asked why he didn’t patent his discovery Salk said, "Well, the people I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?". This is a shining example of how some put the sciences and the progression of humanity before material personal profits. Following this success was Dr. Albert Sabin who invented the oral polio vaccine in 1961 which helped eliminate the virus in larger pools.
Even as Syria rebuilds itself, millions of Syrians are seeking refuge in neighboring countries and Europe. Separation from loved ones is one of cruelest impacts of war, and Syrians without an internet connection have struggled to know the whereabouts and condition of their family members and friends.
Syrian refugee Abdul Rahman AlAshraf came to the rescue of his fellow citizens by developing a DIY software program that enables messages to be sent via mobile phones without requiring an internet connection. With this innovative engineering, users can create text messages and send them in encrypted form as a pattern of beeps that can be picked up by mobile phones in the vicinity.
Rahman’s invention is helpful in communicating to loved ones in war-torn countries where power cuts are frequent and internet connectivity is intermittent. Read more about the DIY refugee inventor here.
Wearable health device for Alzheimer’s patients
Alzheimer’s affects approximately 5.5 million people in the United States and over 20 million worldwide. Wandering is a common behavior among dementia patients, with serious implications for their safety and health. Teenager Kenneth Shinozuku was inspired to create a DIY wander warning device after learning that his grandfather – who is living with Alzheimer’s – would get up from his bed and wander around.
Kenneth developed a film pressure sensor that attaches to the heel and notifies the caretaker/family member when the patient climbs out of bed. The ultra-thin film comprises a wireless circuit that connects to a smartphone app via Bluetooth. By setting off an alarm at the instant it detects the patient standing up on the floor, the device has spared Kenneth’s aunt the tough job of staying up all night to monitor his grandpa.
Necessity is the mother of invention. DIY inventors and engineers that create something of value are driven by the desire to solve big and small problems. A rolling bench that you can rotate after a spell of rain to sit on a totally dry surface or an expensive solar-powered bicycle light from a deodorant stick are examples of man’s ingenuity and resourcefulness.
Beyond inventions, you have the opportunity to reuse old items in new ways and give products, that you would have otherwise thrown out, a second life with some smart engineering. Watch, listen, stay inspired and most importantly, always try! Your next invention may attract commercial interest or at least earn you kudos.
I hope you enjoyed this article as I am just warming up! If you are interested in contributing feel free to send me an email or comment below.