NASA Langley Inventors Recognized
By: Jim Hodges

It was an event that merited a bit of boasting Friday night at the Virginia Air and Space Center.

"You and your colleagues are significant contributors to the intellectual property of NASA, averaging over 85 invention disclosures annually," Lesa Roe, NASA Langley’s center director, told about 200 inventors, patent-holders and others at the annual Invention Awards Ceremony.

Invention awards at the VASC.

More than 100 NASA inventors were recognized for their contributions at the Virginia Air and Space Center on May 1. Credit: NASA/George Homich

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"Langley is number one in the agency for the number of patents issued and tied for second place in licenses granted agency wide. And, for the past three years, you have mounted top royalties in NASA."

Those inventors and their inventions which won national awards over the past two years were specially recognized.

They included the top commercial invention for 2007, Langley’s polyimide foam, invented by Eric Wiser, Brian Jensen and Roberto Cano at the center. Thousands of board-feet of the foam -- which offers insulation for sound, heat and extreme cold – have been ordered, and it’s being used for interior walls of Coast Guard and Navy ships.

The 2008 commercial award was a Langley-developed process that yielded PETI-330, a resin of extreme interest to the commercial aerospace industry because of its ability to combine with another process to produce weight reduction and cost savings.

The inventors were Langley employees John W. Connell and Joseph Smith and center retiree Paul M. Hergenrother.

They were singled out, but the ceremony acknowledged 382 honors, recognizing 288 inventors for more than 86 technological achievements.

"Your creative endeavors and novel  ideas are contributing to Langley’s reputation as an innovative institution, and you are helping make our world a better place," Roe told the assembly.

Ken Thompson, who lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland, was on hand to speak of biomimicry, and his talk both directed and challenged the inventors.

"Nature is a model," Thompson said, and then quoted Bryony Schwan, who heads the Biomimicry Institute: " 'After 3.8 billion years of R and D, failures are fossils. … What we see in nature is the absolute best.' "

Added Thompson, " Nature can be a mentor. Nature … is self-organizing, low-energy, self-correcting, self-containing.

"And nature is a measure. …  We have to think of our inventions in terms of taking care of this small planet that we have stewardship of. Are we making it better or are we making it worse?"

NASA Langley Research Center
Managing Editor: Jim Hodges
Executive Editor and Responsible NASA Official: H. Keith Henry
Editor and Curator: Denise Lineberry