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January 18, 2020
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The Innovative Spirit FY19

History

How the Zamboni Changed the Game for Ice Rinks | Innovation

Smithsonian
The Ice Capades were in Boston on New Year’s Day 1954. That evening, the Boston Bruins were also scheduled to play in Boston Garden. The maintenance crew was dreading clearing the ice in just a few hours in preparation for the NHL game against the New York Rangers. It was......
History

Ten Inventive Attempts to Make Camping More Comfortable | Innovation

Smithsonian
“Home is where you park it,” one now-famous Instagram influencer Foster Huntington—a former New York designer at Ralph Lauren—titled his Kickstarter campaign when he traded his fast-paced, high-pressure life behind for days on the road in a suped-up Volkswagon camper in 2013. Now, #vanlife on Instagram has racked up nearly......
History

The Accidental Invention of the Slinky | Innovation

Smithsonian
As its jingle once cheered: “A spring, a spring, a marvelous thing! Everyone knows it’s Slinky.” The coiled toy certainly is a marvelous, if simplistic, thing. In 1943, mechanical engineer Richard James was designing a device that the Navy could use to secure equipment and shipments on ships while they......
History

You Can Thank Chemist Stephanie Kwolek for Bulletproof Vests and Yoga Pants | Innovation

Smithsonian
This story originally appeared on Massive Science, an editorial partner site that publishes science stories by scientists. There’s a pile of fibers that Stephanie Kwolek helped invent. She laid the groundwork for NomexⓇ, the flame-resistant nylon-like material used in firefighters’ suits. She was involved in the development of spandex (LycraⓇ).......
History

14 Fun Facts About Roller Coasters | Innovation

Smithsonian
On August 16, 1898, Edwin Prescott, a roller coaster designer from Massachusetts, was granted a patent for an improvement to roller coasters that ride enthusiasts have come to take for granted—the vertical loop. While the roller coaster depicted in the patent’s illustration, and later realized as the Loop the Loop......
History

The History of the Wiffle Ball | Innovation

Smithsonian
The score is tied 2-2 and the world championship game has gone into extra innings. There is a runner on third base and a dangerous hitter at the plate. On deck is the pitcher. No-brainer here: walk this guy and take your chances with the weaker hitter. Big mistake. With......
History

Mark Twain’s Quest to Bring Affordable Watches to the Masses | History

Smithsonian
Today, it’s common for celebrities to hawk products that seem to have little, if anything, to do with what made them famous in the first place. Although this phenomenon may seem recent, it’s actually quite old. American novelist Mark Twain, for instance, endorsed a lot of products. Some made him......
History

Why Lie Detector Tests Can’t Be Trusted | Innovation

Smithsonian
Francis Gary Powers had his first polygraph experience right after signing up as a pilot for the CIA’s U-2 program in January 1956. In his memoir, Powers described being called into a room where he was confronted with the question, “Any objection to taking a lie detector test?” Though I......
History

The Most Irish Town in America Was Built on Seaweed | Innovation

Smithsonian
A lot of us start our days with seaweed, whether or not we know it. From toothpaste to moisturizer to yogurt, a compound derived from seaweed called carrageenan is responsible for adding smoothness and suspension to some of our favorite products. Now a global industry, carrageenan production in the United......
History

When Twister Was Too Risqué for America | Innovation

Smithsonian
The original box for the game Twister was jarring in its conservatism. Although the game was marketed mostly to kids and teens, emblazoned across the promotional material for its 1966 launch were cartoon adults wearing fancy clothes entirely impractical for playing the game. Also inexplicably for a game premised on......
History

From the Family Station Wagon to the Apollo Lunar Rover, My Dad’s Engineering Talent Had No Limits | Innovation

Smithsonian
The lunar rover may not have roamed the moon’s surface on the day Apollo 11 made history, but its design had already crystallized by the time Neil Armstrong planted his feet in the Sea of Tranquility. On July 20, 1969, our family gathered around the TV in our northern Virginia......

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