Visitors learned about game-changing inventions and innovative technologies during Military Invention Day at the Smithsonian Museum of American History May 20.
Invention Day brought together a broad and diverse spectrum of groundbreaking technologies, which originated from military science and technology research efforts and may potentially benefit both the military and commercial sectors.
Visitors received a historical perspective on American inventions and some of the innovative military technologies that may influence life in the future for both the military and civilian communities.
More than 30 advanced military and technology displays from the armed forces enterprise, including the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, the Naval Research Laboratory, the U.S. Marine Corps, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Anthrotronix and Draper, highlighted the event’s theme “Inventions for the Armed Forces — Innovations for Society.”
Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley gave the keynote address for the event opening by emphasizing the importance of understanding the differences between invention and innovation, while pointing out the symbiosis between government and commercial sectors.
“Invention has to do with things and innovation has to do with application,” he said. “The military has developed a set of inventions that have had direct civilian application. The opposite is also true; there are many civilian inventions that have become useful in military operations…what’s important to recognize is the impact these things have on military strategy and military concepts.”
Milley toured parts of the Smithsonian which he described as “a national treasure” and viewed popular technology exhibits such as the Manned/Unmanned Teaming, Thermal Weapon Sight, Micro-Autonomous Systems Technology and Medical Training Manikins.
Additional presentations included an “Innovations for Society” stage session where speakers delivered a publicly engaging TED-style talk about leading-edge technologies.
The first session included Matthew Hackett of ARL’s Medical Simulation and Performance Branch who provided a talk about medical simulation and training. Hackett highlighted how medical simulation is used for medical training and emphasized how this method of medical research will impact the future.
“Medical simulation allows the use of technology to help physicians practice skills in a risk free environment so that they are proficient by the time they actually see a patient,” Hackett said. “The ultimate focus is acute patient care.”
Another speaker discussed advances in prosthetics. Michael McLoughlin, chief engineer of the Research and Exploratory Development Department at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, introduced Fred Downs, demonstrating the LUKE arm and Johnny Matheny, demonstrating the Modular Prosthetic Limb.
The sessions culminated with a “Warfighter Inventor” panel discussion, which featured Soldiers who experienced the frontline and whose ideas played critical roles in developing inventions in a variety of technology areas.
U.S. Army Materiel Command Chief Technology Officer Patrick O’Neill said he was highly enthusiastic about the day-long festival.
“Military Invention Day was a perfect opportunity for our Army scientists and engineers to engage with the public, inspire young minds to work in Army research and development in support of the nation’s security and demonstrate how our technology development is benefiting Soldiers and civilians,” O’Neill said.
Director of the Lemelson Center, Dr. Arthur Daemmrich, engaged the event participants.
“We are a national museum of American history,” Daemmrich said. “We have collections in military history, medical history, technological history and political history to name a few. We wanted to connect Military Invention Day to the breadth of what we are about as a museum.”
Daemmrich also commented on the importance, in general, of maintaining an institution, which strives to encourage and foster the art of invention for current and future generations.
“The Lemelson Center strives to give people a sense of empowerment that they are inventive,” he said. “Not every person is an inventor but every person can find solutions to problems they encounter. By seeing the leading-edge technologies displayed, we hope young people are
inspired to contribute to solving the next wave of invention challenges.”
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense