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Inventive thinking

"Greenbank's Matthew Swett says Whidbey is a great place for inventors. He says the island population is packed with a lot of innovative and creative thinkers, from spacecraft engineers to artists. And to Swett's way of thinking, all those imaginative individuals ought to get together and start changing the world.We live in a time when there are so many problems, so many things that need to be solved, he said. We should look at it as an opportunity. Here we are at the millennium. We need to ask how does the new era differ from the old era?Swett, a 28-year-old nearing his accreditation as an architect, says the difference will be marked by advances in information technology which will allow more people to have more opportunities to share knowledge and ideas.Swett classifies himself as an inventor, though perhaps not in the stereotypical sense of Thomas Edison or Alexander Graham Bell.The best inventions are little things like the paper clip, he said with a smile. Swett believes some of the most important inventions of this century will be new ways of creating more while using fewer materials and converting waste into usable products. In general, he said, the best inventions will be new ways of thinking. As a way of encouraging creative thinking, Swett and a handful of other Whidbey inventors would like to form a local inventors' group that would give people a forum for sharing ideas, hearing feedback and gathering support.I don't want to create a big management thing. It's a social thing. he said. Or we might get together and build something. There's a whole different dynamic for an inventor working at home in a closet and one working in a group.Swett's wife, Sarah Birger, said today's world is one of mass culture where conformity - not individual, creative thinking - is the norm.Everyone has a Pokemon and everybody uses it the same, said Birger. She said many of our current problems stem from the fact that we are trapped by old-style thinking.Swett agreed.We live in a world where we are taught to be passive. We get lulled into doing the status quo because it is easy, said Swett. There's a need to frame things in a proactive sense rather than a reactive sense. That's where invention comes in.Swett comes by his inventive thinking naturally. His father designed weaving looms and his great-grandfather, Frank Preston, invented retractable landing gear for aircraft and worked for a time in Edison's invention factory. He also was one of the first auto mechanics working on the innovative Lozier automobile in the early 1900s. Lozier was building four-cylinder cars while other American companies were still struggling with one-cylinder models.Relations on his great-grandmother's side also made a major contribution.They invented Father's Day, said Swett, noting that one branch of relatives whose mother had died established the now-traditional holiday.Swett said the inventors' group he envisions will not be an intimidating collective of geniuses discussing far-out philosophy. Instead, he hopes group members will range from computer whiz kids to weekend tinkerers. People who simply have a different way of looking at things will be welcome.Plain common sense is sometimes the best, he said.To underscore his point that inventions come in all shapes and sizes, Swett pulled out one of his own creations, a portable solar panel that opens like a book.It has multiple uses. It can be a battery charger or it can run a 12-volt stereo. You can't buy something like this at the store, he said. He's also drawn up designs for a mammoth solar-panel wall that tracks the sun during the day and can power an office building. At the other extreme, he's working up plans for a better bubble machine.Swett said people can share skills in a group because some inventors are thinkers and others are builders. He said it's also a great way to find out if your ideas won't work.Inventing is the ability to dream and the ability to follow through, he said. The challenge is to be inventive and have an innovative lifestyle. We need to take the time to be proactive. We need to figure out how we are going to deal with the problems, not how some university professor somewhere is going to deal with them.________________Calling all inventors!Are you inventive, innovative or simply inquisitive? If you'd like to get together with other creative people, contact Matthew Swett by e-mail at mjswett@whidbey.com or by mail at P.O. Box 1026, Langley, 98260.-----------------What are the greatest inventions? People have many ideas. Here are a few.Harris public opinion surveyElectricityMicroprocessorComputerDNA decodingTelephoneAutomobileInternetTelevisionRefrigerationAirplaneGroup of 100 prominent scientistsScientific methodQuantum theoryClassical musicBatteryHayComputersPaperContraceptive pillElectrificationSpectroscopeClockCopernican theoryAsk Men.com (a mens' magazine)ComputerPrinting pressLaserContraceptive pillSteam engineDNA decodingAirplaneInternetAutomobileTelevisionGood Housekeeping MagazineComputerMicrowave ovenVacuum cleanerSanitary napkinsRadioAdhesive bandageBrassiereFrozen foodsDisposable diapersTelevisionElectric ironAir conditionerSunscreenWhat do you think? Here are some other considerations.LanguageTelescopeWheelTransistorGatling gunPlowSafety pinHamburgerReading glassesPenicillinAtomic bombLoomPlasticAnaesthesiaMoneyElectric motorTurbineIndoor toiletBasketArtificial heartArtificial sweetener "

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