December 2004 Issue

NATIONAL NEWS

CANADA NEEDS MORE CANADIANS, AND EVEN MORE BIG IDEAS
by Anna Smith

Canadian inventors are responsible for some of the most important discoveries ever made – discoveries that have changed the lives of people all over the world.

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INTERNATIONAL NEWS

YOUNG GAME INVENTORS CONTEST
by Anna Smith

In keeping with its commitment to help children learn and interact while having fun, University Games is sponsoring its annual National Young Game Inventors Contest (NYGIC) for 2004. In this one-of-a-kind contest, kids invent their own board game and have the chance to have it produced! Created by University Games in 1993, the NYGIC encourages imagination, critical thinking, deductive reasoning, creativity, and education through the process of board game invention.

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NEW MEDICAL IMAGING TECHNIQUE
by Anna Smith

Researchers at Rensselaer are working to develop a new medical imaging technique designed to determine the relative stiffness of soft tissue for the diagnosis of injury and disease.

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ORANGE COUNTY WATER DISTRICT ONE-OF-A-KIND INVENTION
by Anna Smith

While the rest of the world continues to use old technology to clean percolation lakes, Orange County Water District (OCWD) is now using four full-scale versions of its patented Basin Cleaning Vehicle (BCV) hood technology. OCWD’s cleaning method is unique in that a BCV hood—similar to a swimming pool cleaner—cleans the lake while it is full of water. Traditional methods involve emptying the lake, drying it out, and scraping the bottom with heavy equipment to remove one-quarter to one-inch thick clogging layer. The four new barge-like BCV’s cost $4 million and are projected to help increase the amount of water available for Orange County residents.

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CELL PHONE EDGES ALARM CLOCK AS MOST HATED INVENTION,
YET ONE WE CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT

by Anna Smith

Nearly one in three (30%) adults say the cell phone is the invention they most hate but cannot live without, according to the eighth annual Lemelson-MIT Invention Index study. The cell phone narrowly beat the alarm clock (25%) and television (23%) for the distinction in the survey, which gauges Americans’ attitudes toward invention. Shaving razors, microwaves, coffee pots, computers and vacuum cleaners were also cited as essential, yet despised, inventions.
While the Lemelson-MIT Invention Index found a vast majority of Americans (95%) believe inventions have improved the quality of life in the United States, their strong feelings toward cell phones illustrate both the benefits and unintended consequences of innovation.
"Cell phones have clearly been beneficial in terms of increasing worker productivity and connecting people with family and friends," said Merton Flemings, director of the Lemelson-MIT Program, a non-profit organization that celebrates inventors and inventions. "However, the Invention Index results show that the benefits of an invention sometimes come with a societal cost."
The good news, Flemings added, is that invention is cumulative. "Side-effects or limitations of an invention create new opportunities for further innovations," he said.
In the case of the cell phone, MIT Media Lab researchers Chris Schmandt and Stefan Marti recognized an opportunity to solve the societal problems by making mobile communication devices socially intelligent.
"Most people dislike cell phones because they either feel tethered to them or they are annoyed by others who use them in inappropriate public places, such as restaurants or movie theaters," Marti said. "We are exploring ways to give these devices human-style social intelligence, which means that they would know what we as owners expect them to do, and especially what not to do, without our having to tell them explicitly every time."

INVENTIONS MAKE LIFE EASIER OR MORE DIFFICULT?
In addition to cell phones, the Lemelson-MIT Invention Index also looked at the impact of popular inventions such as email, voicemail and credit and debit cards.
Teens overwhelmingly believed email (81%) and voicemail (71%) make life simpler. Adults agreed to a lesser extent. Roughly three out of five said email (59%) and voicemail (58%) have made life easier.
Interestingly, teens have mixed reactions about credit and debit cards. Only 32% said they make life easier, while 26% said they make life more difficult and 39% felt they make life both simpler and more difficult. Half of the adults surveyed said the benefits of credit and debit cards outweigh any disadvantages.

CAN THE U.S. REMAIN INVENTIVE?
The Lemelson-MIT Invention Index also raised concerns about whether future generations of Americans will have the technical skills and ingenuity to continue solving societal problems through invention.
When asked how globally competitive the United States will be 10 years from now in terms of invention, more than half of the adults (57%) and teens (55%) surveyed said America will be losing ground to other countries.
These perceptions support preliminary observations from a recent Lemelson-MIT Program workshop on intellectual property, which found that foreign entities are likely to receive more U.S. patents within the next few years than American entities.
The Lemelson-MIT Invention Index also found that most Americans believe the responsibility for encouraging invention and innovation right now falls equally to industry (26%) and universities (26%). Slightly fewer (21%) Americans thought the responsibility lies with primary schools. Only 14% said government plays a role.
"We need to figure out ways to better prepare and encourage future generations of Americans to invent," the Lemelson-MIT Program's Flemings said. "Innovation can only flourish in a supportive society. The Invention Index alludes to the risks our culture faces if we neglect to support and embrace inventors and their contributions."
In April 2004, the Lemelson-MIT Program will host the first-ever Invention Assembly where leaders from industry, academia and government will explore new ways to nurture an inventive culture.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS
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INTERNATIONAL PATENT FILINGS EXCEED 110,000 FOR 2004
by Anna Smith

The number of international patent applications filed in 2003 using the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), exceeded 110,000 for the third consecutive year, with users from the United States of America topping the list. Applicants from Japan clinched the second place over Germany, for the first time in over a decade. The PCT is the cornerstone of the international patent system and offers a rapid, flexible and cost-effective route to obtain patent protection in the 123 countries that have signed up to the system.

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CELL PHONE EDGES ALARM CLOCK AS MOST HATED INVENTION, YET ONE WE CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT
by Anna Smith

Nearly one in three (30%) adults say the cell phone is the invention they most hate but cannot live without, according to the eighth annual Lemelson-MIT Invention Index study. The cell phone narrowly beat the alarm clock (25%) and television (23%) for the distinction in the survey, which gauges Americans’ attitudes toward invention. Shaving razors, microwaves, coffee pots, computers and vacuum cleaners were also cited as essential, yet despised, inventions.

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ALION INVENTION PROVIDING GREATER SAFETY TO MILITARY PERSONNEL WINS ARMY AWARD
by Anna Smith

Alion Science and Technology was recognized for contributions to developing one of the “Army’s Greatest Inventions” of the past year. The award was presented to Alion's customer, the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), National Automotive Center, where a team of engineers helped develop a new weapons mount that can vastly increase the safety of troops traveling in “Humvees”. The weapons mount is now being used by the US military in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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