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Invented on Long Island

The stories behind the inventors and entrepreneurs of L.I.

Throughout the day, the idyllic SUNY Farmingdale State College campus plays host to countless young minds—students being taught, tutored, prepped and groomed for the world that lies ahead. On the fourth Wednesday of every month, though, creative minds of a different ilk convene. These are inventors and entrepreneurs, gathering here to network and relay advice and ideas, all of them looking for ways to get their concepts off the ground and make their dreams come true.

This is the New York Society of Professional Inventors, a subsidiary of The American Inventors Association and the only group of its kind in the metro New York area. Its motto is “Whatever man can conceive, man can achieve,” a mantra that at once pays homage to the luminaries of the past and encourages the innovators of the present.


PTWA in action

This month, the group welcomes back one of their own success stories: James Hangley, founder and inventor of Creaset, a system that produces permanent creases in clothing. Hangley’s patented invention is used by garment manufacturers around the world.

At the meeting, Hangley will discuss his experience with his invention, which, like most, came with conflict and turmoil. Fellow inventors will gather to listen to Hangley’s story, ruminate on the do’s and don’ts of the trade, and by night’s end, will be a small step closer to launching their products.

While the word “inventor” often brings to mind wild images of mad scientists working around the clock in a cluttered lab, culminating in a resounding “Eureka!” upon the completion of their life’s work, these individuals are not caricatures. They are factory workers, business owners and single mothers, who work tirelessly to make their ideas reality.

Long Island is no stranger to inventions. In fact, the Island could be considered a veritable laboratory in its own respect, an incubator that has born everything from the Long Island Iced Tea to the Apollo Lunar Module. Long Island is the birthplace of suburbia. It is the cradle of aviation. Magnetic levitation transportation technology was invented here. But despite inventions that have received global recognition, perhaps even changed the course of mankind, or expanded our understanding of everything from the cosmos to our own genetic makeup, the Island was the flashpoint for—and is presently home to—many, many other creations and their makers, of whom most have never heard.

Keeping the traditions set by the pioneers of old, these creative minds continue Long Island’s legacy and further solidify its place in the canons of human invention. Here are some of their stories.

In 1857, 13 years before the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge commenced, a young visionary named Joseph de Sendzimir proposed a submarine tunnel that would run under the East River, connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan.

De Sendzimir, an Amityville resident by way of Poland, spearheaded his groundbreaking idea which, ironically, broke no ground at all. Unlike other proposed plans, his tunnel required no demolition, as it was simply a series of iron-clad chambers laid on the floor of the East River, connected by large tubes.

A blueprint, along with a detailed plan of the underground iron tunnel, was featured in The Scientific American on April 4, 1857. Though his bid for the Brooklyn tunnel fell through, giving way to the historic bridge that stands today, he continued in his creative pursuits; eventually patenting a type of self-regulating wind mill that same year. To this day, de Sendzimir is regarded by historians as Long Island’s forgotten inventor.

Oyster Bay native Keith Kowalsky, president of Port Washington-based Flame-Spray Industries, Inc., never set out to be an award-winning inventor. That’s why, in June of last year, when Keith and two Flame-Spray colleagues were granted the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation’s 36th National Inventor of the Year Award, it came as a monumental surprise.

“In truth, as far as inventing, engineers typically don’t get much recognition,” Kowalsky tells the Press.

From right: Keith Kowalksy, Daniel Marantz, David Cook and James Baughman receive their award at the Smithsonian.

Adding even more weight to the prestigious award was the caliber of competition facing Kowalsky and Co.

“We were up against NASA, and all these major companies all over the country,” says Kowalsky. “If you look at the past winners of this award, most of them are in the medical industry literally saving lives. So for them to give guys like us an award of that magnitude was outstanding.”

The invention for which they were awarded is not a single product, but rather a process, known as Plasma Transferred Wire Arc Thermal Spray Apparatus and Method, also referred to as PTWA. Developed over a decade by Kowalsky, Daniel Marantz and David Cook, Ph.D. of Flame-Spray, and James Baughman, a Ford Motor Company retiree, it is a unique process that deposits a molten metal coating on the inside of a cylinder, such as a pipe. Flame-Spray collaborated with Ford to create the mechanism to be placed in automobile engines as a solution to the industry’s need to replace expensive cast-iron liners commonly used in engines. The process benefits both economic and environmental concerns, by removing the need for dense cast-iron engine liners.

When Flame-Spray introduced the concept of PTWA to Ford, they decided to experiment. “Ford at that time said, ‘We’ll give you an engine, why don’t you give it a shot?’” says Kowalsky. “We gave it a shot and they did some evaluation on it and said ‘Oh my God, this looks great.’”

Josephine Geraci, inventor of gLovies

Today, PTWA is used in several Ford models, as well as the 2008 Nissan GT-R, which was named Motor Trend and Automotive Magazine’s Car of the Year for 2009.

Grumman Aerospace Corporation was one of the leading aircraft producers for the U.S. Military in the 20th century. Grumman, which got its start in Baldwin and eventually moved to a sprawling engineering complex in Bethpage, with an assembly and testing site in Calverton, produced some of the most powerful military aircrafts during WWII, including the F4F Wildcat, F6F Hellcat and the Navy fighter aircraft.

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