Being an engineer is easy. You go to school to learn well established laws and methods. When you get a job, there are others who can mentor you and show you the ropes. If you need to know more, there are training classes to take. Someone else, usually marketing, decides what needs to be to be designed. All you have to do is follow the rules.
Being an inventor is hard. There is no school for inventing, nobody to teach you the ropes, and no classes to tell you how to do things. You come up with your own idea that has never been done before. You learn on the fly what you need to know from a variety of domains you know nothing about. You build it yourself. There is no such thing as first pass success. Experimentation and refinement are a constant process.
For those of you who know Joyce and have been privileged to receive one of her hand-made personalized holiday “greetings”, you know that she is one of the most creative and gifted people you could ever meet. I’ve had people tell me that they look forward to the holidays just to find out what she is going to send. Most Novembers, our garage looks like a scene out of Honey I Shrunk The Kids as Joyce invents a new holiday greeting. Each of these inventions takes countless hours of brainstorming, planning, experimenting, assembling, and tweaking to get it “just right”.
There was the mobile of our kids made with clear fishing line tied off. The fishing line, being so slick, would always untie until Joyce figured out to add a drop of glue to the end to keep it in place. Problem solved.
A few years ago Joyce made a lantern with pictures of our children on the outside. It took a lot of research and experimentation to make sure the cardboard comprising the lantern was sufficiently coated so as not to catch fire but still provide a cozy glow. Good to go.
And probably the most interesting of all, there was the snow globe which contained an acrylic encased photo of our daughter Kiara reaching for the stars. I remember Joyce’s frustration trying to pry the small Lucite blocks from their molds until she realized that sticking them in cold water would loosen the blocks from the molds due to the CTE mismatch between the materials. Then, these Lucite blocks were placed in baby food jars that had to have just the right mixture of water and propylene glycol to be viscous and not grow algae. Perfect.
About a year and a half ago, we were visiting Legoland in Carlsbad, CA. My kids (then 4 and 6), especially my son, have a gift for getting “sidetracked”. So, Joyce thought it would be a good idea for our kids to have our cell phone numbers conspicuously on them in case they got lost. That way, it would not depend on their memory of our cell numbers for us to be contacted by a helpful stranger if they wandered away. That’s when the idea for the “WhoTat” was born.
Joyce decided to start a business called Aware Gear that would provide safety products for young children. The first product was the WhoTat which is a temporary tattoo that is personalized with a phone number to call in case of emergency. Kids like to wear them and parents know that their kids don’t need to remember their phone numbers. Now, I’ll admit that I was personally dubious that this was needed. After all, how hard is it for a kid to remember a phone number? The problem is that most of us have several phone numbers (home, work, cell) and a scared lost child of any age can get confused and even mix the phone numbers together. That’s what my son did, mix the numbers together.
As with the other holiday greetings, this was an invention of its own. At first it seemed easy. Just buy these tattoo sheets that could be fed into a printer, design some neat tattoos, add the phone number, and print. But it wasn’t so easy. First there were moisture issues where the printing process wouldn’t work on humid days or the ink wouldn’t stick. Then the Tats were kind of sticky, so baby powder was used to remove the stickiness, but not too much so as to blur the image. It was probably 6 months before she got the process down to something that would repeatably produce a high quality product.
The second offering was a skin sticker where you could write in your own phone number or message on the fly. Again, material problems. Most recently, she is producing glow-in-the-dark skin stickers called gid-its. With Halloween coming up, and all the inherent dangers of visiting strangers while trick-or-treating, this should help kids stay safe. Once again, this has proven to be a real lesson in materials science, specifically how to get paint with glow-in-the-dark powder to adhere evenly to a non- porous acrylic surface. Who knew? Oh, and 2 days ago she told me about another invention idea and I already see the beginnings of prototypes around the house.
Since Halloween is coming around and child safety is a big concern for a lot of parents, I’d like to ask a favor … ummm … I mean offer you an opportunity. Actually, 3 opportunities.
First, as I mentioned, my wife is a creative genius and you have the opportunity to acquire some of there original work. Her products really do help to keep kids safe and are fun and you have the opportunity to get them for your kids. If you don’t have young kids, tell a friend who does. You can order them here. An if you use the checkout code ASICGUY10 you will get a 10% discount.
Second, you have an opportunity to support a good organization. In addition to the 10% discount mentioned above, Joyce will donate 10% directly to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The NCMEC acts as an information clearinghouse and resource for parents, children, law enforcement agencies, schools, and communities to assist in locating missing children and to raise public awareness about ways to prevent child abduction, child sexual abuse and child pornography. John Walsh, Noreen Gosch, and others advocated establishing the center as a result of frustration stemming from a lack of resources and coordination between law enforcement and other government agencies.
Lastly, if you have gotten some value out of reading this blog over time, then here is your chance to thank me. I’d really appreciate it.
harry the ASIC guy