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History Channel’s ‘Modern Marvels’ honors BYU invention, professor

The History Channel’s tech-savvy show, Modern Marvels, gives behind-the-scenes glimpses into innovations of past and present and this week will announce the year’s top five inventions. Among the 25 semifinalists is a machine invented by a Brigham Young University professor that automates the production of lightweight composite 3-D lattice structures 12 times stronger than steel per pound of material.

A panel of inventors, technologists and industry experts selected the semifinalists from among more than 3,300 independent inventors. One will ultimately be named 2007 Modern Marvel of the Year and be featured in episodes airing May 15-17.

Inventor David Jensen, a BYU professor of civil engineering at the Center for Advanced Structural Composites, has been perfecting the machine and its unique continuous fabrication process for nearly a decade. After observing the labor-intensive ways to make composite support materials while on a trip to China, Jensen wanted to create structures, from utility poles to cellular towers, that used lattice IsoTruss structures assembled all at once in a smooth, automated process without using cumbersome materials.

“The machine creates IsoTruss structures at a higher volume and lower cost with a continuous process that doesn’t require any hand assembly,” Jensen said. “It also enables new customized structures to be created without having to design an entirely new mandrel for each new configuration, employing instead an automated external cylinder shaping system.”

Jensen will join the 24 other inventors in New York on Friday to visit the invention exhibit in the final chapter of a whirlwind national museum tour that will ultimately culminate at the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

While he is modest in his expectations for the competition, Jensen will nonetheless be honored as one of the semifinalists and will participate in a workshop designed to launch all of the inventions successfully into the commercial marketplace.

To learn more about Jensen’s invention, visit http://www.history.com/invent/ and click on “2007 Winners” and then on his name. The Web site for his BYU research lab is www.isotruss.org.

Writer: Brittany Leonard

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