Bruce Young’s wife told him about SATOP three times before the message finally sunk in: he could ask for free assistance from Space Program engineers to solve the technical challenge he was facing with his Laser Lure invention.
His wife, who heard about SATOP while at work, had urged Young to take advantage of the program. “I finally paid attention when I heard my wife say the word ‘free.’ I hate to admit that I hadn’t been listening, because that was the best advice anyone ever gave me,” Young said.
Young’s invention, the Laser Lure, utilizes laser light to entice fish. He conceived the concept for the device after observing the behavior of the fish in a large tank at his place of business. When Young would point a laser light at the tank, the fish hit on the light as though they were going after a juicy worm.
“I learned that about 80 percent of everything in the ocean gives off luminescence,” Young said. “The laser light is attractive because it is highly coherent and concentrated, and to fish that looks like a glowing piece of food.”
Young designed and patented a two-piece lure that screwed together in the middle and contained the laser light and batteries. Unfortunately, after selling several hundred of the lures, all were returned by consumers who complained that the laser light had stopped working. Young discovered that the lures were leaking and the water was shorting out the circuit. He needed to find a way to solve the leak if the Laser Lure was to ever be successful.
Once Young took his wife’s advice to contact SATOP, his Request for Technical Assistance (RTA) was paired with Ernie Banks, materials and processes engineering scientist with The Boeing Company. Banks, who has worked on numerous RTAs for SATOP, immediately identified an O-ring as the cause of the leak.
“The O-ring was not in the proper seat and was not expanding to fill the cavity when it was compressed by screwing the two halves of the lure together,” Banks said. “The O-ring wasn’t forming a watertight seal and the resulting leakage caused the battery to short and lose power to the laser emitter.”
Banks proceeded to determine the size of the sealing groove for the O-ring and ordered several sizes and thicknesses of rings to test. He also lubricated the O-ring with a waterproof grease to aid in sealing. When he felt he had the correct O-ring fit, Banks tested the seal by submerging the lure in water for eight hours. The seal passed the test.
Young has gone on to further perfect
the lure design and currently is receiving help from SATOP on a computer chip that will cause the laser to emit only when
the lure is in the water. The laser also will blink instead of shining steadily, allowing the lure to have a longer life. Young is also planning to expand his product line
to include a top water lure and three diver lure designs.
“I don’t know where I’d be now without SATOP’s help – it is the most amazing program,” Young said. “I really owe my
wife a big ‘thank you’ for telling me about SATOP – and telling me, and telling me!
I’m glad I finally listened.”