Below is a list of inventions that I have either prototyped or brought into production at one point in the past. I have presented them here to demonstrate the typical successes I have when bringing my innovations to actual fruition. It's unfortunate I tend to neglect keeping a photographic record of what I do.
Carburator In high school, during chemistry class, I realized that gasoline will not burn. Only gasoline vapor will burn. Knowing how internal combustion engines work, I wondered why liquid gasoline was injected into an engine when only the vapor surrounding the droplets was burning to produce the power.
According to the calculations I did in chemistry class, a 350cu.in. engine traveling at 60MPH under full load should be getting 318MPG. Obviously, that isn't the case. The droplets never get the chance to evaporate until they reach the exhaust and are therefore wasted.
I set to work designing a carburator that would provide only vapor to an engine, thus saving fuel. The first device I built was designed only to prove a point. The only engine I had access to for experimenting on was my snowmobile. I built a simple sheet metal box containing a coarse sponge in a liquid reservoir attached to an intake tube with a butterfly control. I attached the device to my snowmobile in place of the carburator, put a small amount of gasoline in the reservoir and started the engine. It ran beautifully. Vapor only, no liquid. Unfortunately, being a two-cycle engine, I didn't dare run it for more than a minuet or so without oil. But it ran, which is all I wanted it to do at the time.
In my early 20s I purchased a hobby size lathe and set to work building a better working model. I quickly learned that neither this tiny lathe nor my skill set were up to the task. But I did manage to build small devices that allowed my Argo (ATV) to get ~20% better mileage, and increase the mileage in my pickup by ~5MPG.
Yukon Kodiak Wood Stove In my mid-twenties I lived in Whitehorse, Yukon. My wife and I purchased a condo which came with a wood stove - a common amenity there at that time. The wood stove we had was an RSF65, which was supposed to be one of the most efficient non-catalytic designs on the market. Seemed to me it used an awful lot of wood.
I set to work designing a better wood stove. In a little while I built small one as a donation for the kids camp we were involved with. There was even an article on it (and myself) in the Yukon News. The stove worked perfectly. It heated the small cabin in which it was placed with ease, even at -40F.
Later that year I obtained funding from a local doctor, set up a welding/production shop and obtained Warnock Hersey safety certification for a full size model. I chose to build it approximately the same dimensions as the RSF65 in my house. I did this for two reasons: 1) according to the local wood stove dealer, it was the most popular size for people to buy in the area and 2) I wanted to compare the performance of the two.
As soon as my stove was certified, I replaced the stove in my house with one of my own. I used less than half the amount of wood I used with the former high efficiency stove.
Starstruck Game In my early years I was a big fan of strategy games, especially Risk. I was also a Trekkie. Combine those two and you've got a game called Starstruck. Very similar to Risk, but with a little more flair and a space theme. As a test I recruited 4 friends who were all "Risk fanatics", handed them the game and rule book and told them nothing about it. I went home. The next day I asked how they liked it. The vote was unanimous - Starstruck is better than Risk!
The original board design was three dimensional, which greatly added to the appeal. In researching ways to get the game produced however, this design proved to be too cost prohibitive in the small runs I would have to start with. The design I have now is the usual paper board.
Cretan Labyrinth Game I don't remember how I came up with this one, but it turned out to be a very entertaining game. Just the right balance of luck and skill. All of the few who have played it so far find it very enjoyable.
Imagine you've been thrown into a giant maze. The only way out of this maze is with a key located in the center. The only way you can get the key is by collecting four diamonds along the way. The catch? The walls keep moving and there are monsters trying to kill you (send you back to start) and steal your diamonds. On top of that, there's only one key. So if you manage to get it, you not only have to dodge/battle all the monsters on your way out, the other players are now after you to get the key!
Sub Arc Shut Down For a while I worked as a welder with a 'B' pressure sub-arc ticket building large pressure vessels in Edmonton Alberta. When running a sub-arc welder you can't see what you're doing - you have to just know. It can also get very boring watching a robot for hours on end. Your mind tends to wonder. If something happens to the powder flow, normally you can shut the machine down and correct the problem, if you notice in time. If you don't it can make a real mess that can take hours to fix. The trick is there are three main components that all have to be shut down in the correct order, and over a matter of a couple seconds, not all at once.
Having dabbled with TTL & CMOS logic and other electronic circuits since a child, I built a device that would detect a problem and do the shut down sequence automatically. In manual tests, it worked perfectly. It's too bad my boss didn't like the idea of a 20 year old 'welder' opening up his $50,000 welding machine to add an unknown gadget to it.
Port-a Series Camping Gear I like camping, but I'm a bit of a sissy. I like to have a few conveniences if I can. To that end I made a line of lightweight cloth camping gear. Port-a-chair (3 folding legs), Port-a-table (tie to trees or cut sticks for legs), Port-a-biffy (toilet seat tied to trees and/or cut legs).
I produced this line myself for a while.
Nylon Snowshoe Harness I grew up in the sub-arctic. Snowshoes were pretty much standard issue if you spent much time in the bush as I did. The problem is, most snowshoe harnesses are made of leather and stretched easily. I could easily go through a half dozen of this type per year. The common alternative was lampwick, or cotton webbing. That worked well but could be tricky and difficult to use at times.
Since I had a great deal of nylon webbing available from making my camping gear line, I started making snowshoe harnesses from nylon webbing with plastic snap buckles. Worked very well and I sold quite a few.
Portable Snowshoes When going for long distances on snowmobiles, its wise to carry a pair of snowshoes in case you break down, which snowmobiles were notorious for back then. Without snowshoes it could be a long hard walk back to town. But snowshoes are bulky and difficult to carry if you don't have a trailer.
I started making portable snowshoes made of nylon webbing, a built-in harness and no frame. They could be rolled into a small pouch that could fit in the snowmobile trunk or your backpack. If you need snowshoes, simply cut a couple of saplings the right size, strap them to the webbing and voila! Snowshoes.
Cross Country Ski Brake I like cross country skiing, but I hate doing that "duck walk" up hills. I obtained an old pair of skis to experiment on and used some plastic skating rink board to make an automatic mechanical brake. With this device I was able to simply walk up hills, no matter how steep, with ease. Yes there are a couple other products around for the same purpose, but none work as well as this.
Light Trap for Solar Power This is something I came up with while working of the space elevator project. I made the design public while at the competition, so I don't mind showing it here.
Solar cells work when sunlight passes through the photovoltaic material, not when it strikes it. Sunlight passes through the material, generating power en route, bounces off the back wall and generates more power on it's way out. "On it's way out" is the key here. This means that if you can get the light to turn around and go through the photovoltaic material again, you can generate more power.
This can be done by placing the solar cell on the back wall of a mirrored box with a small hole in the front. Light is concentrated through the small hole and then re-expands on the other side before hitting the solar cell. Pretty much identical to how a camera works works with it's apature. This captures the vast majority of the light in the box so that when it leaves the solar cell it is re-directed back into the cell where it then generates more power.
In the crude experiments that I conducted using this technique, I measured an eight percent increase in the power output of a standard solar cell. That's nothing to sneeze at!