1997 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize Winner
|Photo by Barry Hertherington
Applying modern-day technology and materials to bellowsa
flexible, pleated chamber to conduct air and keep dirt away from
bearingsled Nathan Kane to redesign something that hadn't
been modified since its inception in the Bronze Age! Kane was awarded
the $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize in 1997 not only for his
inventive talent to improve such a design, but also his dedication
to encouraging young inventors via outreach programs.
One summer as a high school student, Kane took on the task of renovating
his parent's house in Austin, TX to minimize dust for his father
who suffered from respiratory allergies. During his labor, Kane
devised an air mask for workers, which consisted of a light retractable
air hose that supplies clean air to the eyes, nose and mouth from
a blower/filter. This device became the basis for Kane's bellows
design, which he developed through computer analysiscreating
flexible folding patterns made of plastic that are low cost, less
weight and can stretch twice as far as the original design. Other
potential applications for his bellows include collapsible containers,
expandable shelters and pumps.
Kane has additionally invented the Project-a-Sketchan opaque
overhead projector that enables children to view their paintings
or drawings onto a new type of industrial bearing on a wall. Working
in collaboration on other inventions, Kane invented the HydroRail
with his advisor Professor Alex Slocuma modular hydrostatic
bearing for machine tools; and the Pass-It with 1996 Lemelson-MIT
Student Prize winner David Levya TV remote control designed
to be thrown around like a football.
Kane's passion for inventing extends further than the items he
designs. Serving as a role model to the local community, he has
devoted much of his time encouraging and inspiring young inventors
in initiatives such as assisting middle school students in building
model solar cars and generating a "Recycler Contest" for
Currently employed by Transform Pharmaceuticals in Lexington, MA,
Kane earned his B.S. (1991) and M.S. (1993) from the University
of Texas and his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from MIT (1999).
He remarks, "Thanks mainly to the Lemelson prize connection,
several companies contacted me about using my bellows in their products."
Kane worked with one potential company to build prototypes and is
now collaborating with an independent inventor interested in his
Lemelson Center Innovative Lives