Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Prototype This

Discovery Channel Puts Fun in Functionality

ID editor-at-large Jennipher Adkins recently spent some time on the set of Prototype This, a new series on the Discovery Channel. The show escorts viewers from the drafting table and on through the design process to see how inventions come to life.

“I was scheduled to be there for one hour,” she says. “Not surprisingly, the interview easily took almost three hours.”

The show debuted Oct. 15, airs at 10 p.m. each Wednesday, and will run for 13 episodes (check local listings). The team told Inventors Digest it was tough to select 13 inventions from hundreds of ideas that they initially kicked around. And these guys are building things you’ve never seen before, from mind-controlled cars to wearable airbags.

Each prototype has to be functional, solve a real-world problem and possess potential commercial value.

The four-member team is composed of robotics engineer Zoz Brooks, electrical engineer and triple patent holder Joe Grand, nanotechnologist and materials/mechanical engineer Mike North, and special effects technician Terry Sandin, who has worked on more than 25 Hollywood films.

Asked what advice he has for inventors, Sandin says, “Collaboration through brainstorming is key … don’t be afraid to bring others in.”

Some of the prototypes include a fire-proof backpack, legged vehicles (yes, a walking car), flying life guards, adhesive that allows humans to climb walls, boxing robots, road-rage proof cars and a water slide you could fit in your backyard.

“I can picture a 21st century amusement park full of simulated rides” like the one based on their perpetual water slide design, says Adkins. “It’s cool to imagine a roller coaster that gets you white-knuckled without the risk of bodily harm.

“You should watch these guys in action,” she adds. “It’ll inspire you to take their own ideas to the next level.”

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