“My father was a Chemical Engineer.”
“You mean he cooked meth in your basement.”
“In the attic, actually. You’ve got to have air flow when cooking meth.”
“He really did cook meth?”
“Once a month, a big batch. Sometimes, at twilight, the bats would unfold themselves from behind the eaves, one of them would fly in the open window, get confused, and end up in the mixture.”
“Whoa! I had no inkling of your checkered past.”
“Gotcha! I had no inkling you were so gullible. And you started that thread.”
“Never mind. I forgot you’re not on Twitter.”
“Twitter, schmitter, baby. YouTube all the way. Broadcast Yourself! The look on my face was a missed viral video! Our 3 minutes of fame, lost! Maybe your dad could help me with a video. Assignment: demonstrate a chemical reaction.”
“Know anyone who can conduct a séance? That’s where we’ll find him. Must be dozens of chemical reaction videos already on YouTube.”
“Never too many videos on an interesting subject.”
For longer than what might seem reasonable, my father held out hope that one of his six daughters might follow in his scientific footsteps. None of us did. Not in any meaningful way for him. The youngest of us has a science background, and a great career in pharmaceutical research. No, I don’t mean she’s a drug addict. She’s a bona fide researcher. She monitors drug studies, collecting and organizing the data, before it is submitted to the FDA.
My father was not an easy person to be around. His standards were exacting. Yet, he and his youngest daughter often found common ground when their conversation zeroed in on work, a topic that landed safely in his comfort zone.
My father held a patent, No. 3490750, for a high intensity mixing machine. A mixing apparatus for highly viscous substances, the abstract begins. Here’s a link for any among you that might be interested in reading the entire patent. If anyone does, please tell me who you are! I love talking with science nerds. My father was proud of his invention. Rightly so. I would be.
Maybe one of his daughters will invent something. Hey, it’s not too late. And if we do, we will hold that seance, and summon his spirit. I imagine him sitting at a bar with his buddies, (who knows what lies beyond?) throwing back a Scotch on the rocks, and boasting about his kid. In the meantime, however, my sisters and me may want to live vicariously through Katherine Bomkamp. This young woman is a force to be reckoned with.
While still in high school Ms. Bomkamp invented the Pain Free Socket. Invented is the right word, astounding as it may seem when in reference to a high school student. Her father is a disabled Air Force veteran. In hospital and clinic waiting rooms, sitting with her father, she found herself surrounded by amputee soldiers just returned from Iraq or Afghanistan. She listened to their laments. Phantom pain from missing limbs dominated their stories. Typical treatment includes antipsychotics and barbiturates. It’s expensive, and leads to addiction. Ms. Bomkamp determined that there must be another way to treat this mysterious pain. Her initial thought was a simple muscle pull, and how heat is applied to ease the discomfort.
She emailed engineering professors. Many were receptive and invited her to their labs. She chose one for the most practical of reasons. It was near her house. They taught her electrical engineering and heat wiring. Remember, at this time she is 16 years old, a high school student! She chose to spend her free time among engineering professionals, learning how to wire a device for heat. In the end, she built her first prototype, a prosthetic socket, heated with hunter’s socks.
Then her real work began. She telephoned prosthetics companies she found at the Amputee Coalition’s website. Most of them hung up on her, telling her it wouldn’t work, or telling her she was just a kid, come back later. She persevered. Proof that not all teenagers have the attention span of a music video. Today, she has a second-generation prototype that allows the amputee to control the temperature of the socket. Ms. Bomkamp has applied for a patent. It will be subject to approval by the FDA.
At 20 years old, Ms. Bomkamp, now a sophomore at West Virginia University, is the CEO of a start-up company. Glamour Magazine included her in their 21 Amazing Young Women of 2011. Just this month she flew to London as the youngest person to present at the Royal Society of Medicine’s Medical Innovations Summit.
Katherine Bomkamp is doing something with her life. A compassionate young woman had an idea, and brought it to fruition. Remarkable.
Katherine’s father must be extremely proud of his daughter.
You can follow Katherine on Twitter @kbomkamp. And on her blog.
Thanks for listening. Dream big! Do you know anyone who has invented something? What do you think are some of the more innovative inventions?