By Timothy Rider, RDECOMMay 22, 2013
WEST POINT, N.Y. (May 22, 2013) -- There is no greater motivational sapper than when you are out on an expeditionary mission and you come across a 20-foot chasm, and no one is on the far side to catch a rope.
The necessity to get to the other side makes for a real mother of invention.
For which, U.S. Military Academy Cadets Killian Burns, Sungi Cho, Steven Davidson, Max Saurwein offer the "Light Weight Short Gap Defeat and Anchor System."
Their gap defeater is small enough to fit into a ruck pack, explained the cadets who briefed attendees at the academy's Projects Day here, May 2.
To cross this vexing fissure with the gap defeater, one would simply unpack an object that looks like a cross between an egg and a barbell, and hurl it onto a flat surface on the far side. When the egg has righted itself -- as its bottom-weighted design compels it to do--one initiates a potent powder charge nestled in the egg's handle.
The charge propels a carefully considered barb securely into most any surface. The barb has a wire attached. That wire is for stretching the bridge device, made with steel wire and aluminum rungs, across the canyon.
Having affixed the ropes on the thrower's end to a tree (or to handy pegs if a tree isn't nearby), and tightened up the lines, that gulch is now a highway to restored motivation and mission success.
Pretty clever, cadets. You ought to patent that.
In fact, the cadets were handed a business card with the words, "The ARDEC Patent Office believes your project may be patentable. Please report to Jefferson Hall Building 131 before 1430 to have your project reviewed."
After reporting to Building 131, cadets Burns, Cho, Davidson and Saurwein met a team of intellectual property experts from U.S. Army Research Development and Engineering Command's armaments center at Picatinny Arsenal. They then filled out and signed the paperwork needed to submit an invention disclosure to the ARDEC Legal Office.
An invention disclosure is not a patent application, and by itself does not provide intellectual property protection, according to Henry Goldfine a patent attorney for ARDEC. The disclosure provides the information necessary for the ARDEC legal team to research and decide whether to file for a patent. If they decide it's a "go" they will assemble the paperwork necessary to file a patent application.
Then, Goldfine explained, the patent team has a year from the date the invention was first disclosed outside the government, to file the patent application, although a provisional application to the USPTO provides an additional year, within which time the final non-provisional patent application would need to be filed.
If the patent research reveals that the device is sufficiently "new, useful and non-obvious" -- shorthand description of the threshold that an invention must cross to be patentable -- and the Army has an interest in obtaining the legal benefits a patent provides, the ARDEC Patent Office will file the patent paperwork with the USPTO and prosecute for the patent until a decision is ultimately reached.
WEST POINT PROJECTS DAY
The Picatinny team attended Projects Day to capture some of what Brig. Gen. Timothy E. Trainor, the U.S. Military Academy Dean of the Academic Board, calls "a transparent display of the intellectual capital of our students," in the Projects Day welcome packet.
Projects Day has been an annual event open to the public here since 2000. Cadets present their senior theses, capstone project or research relevant to the Army or society. This year, there were more than 250 presentations.
"Some of these projects embody innovative, technical advances that may be useful to the Army or represent potential licensing opportunities, where obtaining a patent to protect the innovative intellectual property could be significant," said Goldfine.
In addition to the Light Weight Short Gap Defeat and Anchor System, four other cadet teams filled out disclosure paperwork that the ARDEC team will explore for patent potential. These include:
• Low Altitude Radiation Sensor: A low and slow flying blimp that carries a sensors and communications payload. Its unique flight pattern is just right for mapping radiation so Soldiers can avoid hot spots.
• 40 mm Non-Destructive Windshield Obstruction: When a driver is speeding toward your checkpoint and you're not sure if the driver has bad intentions or just doesn't understand the word "stop," you can use this non-lethal grenade to cover both bases. The only damage it will do to the windshield is covering it with an opaque goop that leaves the driver little choice but to halt.
• Thermo-Electric Cooling Tank: A water buffalo is a tank-on-wheels that provides Soldiers potable water. This device shades the buffalo from the sun while harnessing light energy to provide those hard-working Soldiers with cool, refreshing hydration.
• FOB (forward operating base) Composting System: Using readily available shipping containers, this device reduces and recycles environmental contaminants.
With a backlog of 600,000 patent applications, it takes the USPTO an average of 40 months from the time of filing a patent application until a patent is granted, according to the USPTO website.
SUPPORTING AN ARMY NEIGHBOR
Picatinny began its patent support for West Point in 2010, when Goldfine filed a patent application for a member of West Point's faculty, Lt. Col. Walter P. Cole. His patent application for a "Laser and Corner Cube Refractive-Index Structure Parameter System" was granted as U.S. Patent No. 8,253,932, in August 2012, according to Goldfine.
While West Point doesn't have an intellectual property office, Picatinny, which is approximately a one and one-half hour drive away, has patent attorneys to support its more than 2,500 scientists and engineers. ARDEC also has a program that fosters innovation by providing the support of personnel, training, library resources and facilities. The program is named Innovative Developments Everyday at ARDEC.
From 2009 to 2011, ARDEC was granted 89 patents and filed for 174, according to ARDEC Patent Paralegal Lori Andrews.
These ARDEC innovations make up a significant portion of the U.S. Army's 327 granted patents out of 436 published inventions from 2009-2011. The numbers placed the U.S. Army in this year's list of "Top 100 Global Innovators" by the multimedia and information conglomerate Thomson Reuters.
As for the Picatinny team attending Projects Day, "The whole thing started with the conversation with Derek on his Demon Eye," said Ralph Tillinghast, an ARDEC mechanical engineer who teaches other ARDEC employees about innovation and obtaining intellectual property.
"Demon Eye," is a low-cost device invented by former Cadet Derek Wales for his senior project that can quickly determine location coordinates for targets viewed through a scope.
While a patent application was not filed for Demon Eye, the experience got Tillinghast to consider if there were other patent opportunities being presented during Projects Day.
Tillinghast and another ARDEC mechanical engineer, Jeffery Lukaszyk, gave a briefing to Col. John Graham, a professor, chief scientist, and director of the academy's Network Science Center on the "ins and outs of patent protection." They asked if West Point would consider receiving Picatinny patent support, according to Tillinghast.
The Picatinny team, which included Goldfine, Tillinghast, Lukaszyk, Andréa J. Stevens, an ARDEC IDEA program catalyst and manager of innovation and Andrei Cernasov, an ARDEC associate for innovation, went to the 2012 Projects Day on their initial West Point mission seeking patentable ideas from the student projects and found eight patent candidates.
Of the eight, three provisional patents have been filed with the USPTO, including:
• Penetrating Anchor Projectile
• "On Demand" Thermal Protection Gear
• Exoskeleton for Rucksack Support
"This was a new area for them to move into," said Tillinghast of West Point.