Inventing can be for Everybody

We sat down with the AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassadors while they were in Washington D.C. for the AAAS Annual Meeting.  We spoke to each about the importance of invention, the impact of their work, and what it has been like to be an Invention Ambassador. We continue our recaps of those conversations with Fang (Florence) Lu’s poignant remarks about inventing not being something that only special people can do.

Fang (Florence) Lu 

I believe that all inventors should think about the entirety of the population when we create new technologies.

Fang (Florence) Lu is a Senior Solution Architect working for IBM Research. Creating her first invention at just 11 years old, she now has filed over 180 patents for inventions in areas from Social Software, to Healthcare Analytics, to Internet of Things. Florence is passionate about educating and inspiring others about the invention process, but she especially advocates for youth to become involved.

What is a Solutions Architect?

A Solutions Architect looks at all the challenges that people face and creates meaningful solutions to help and improve people’s’ lives. At IBM, a Senior Solutions Architect handles creating different types of technical solutions for different industries. It is work that is best done by creating an inventive and innovative culture.

How do you show encourage others to invent?

Through my work I have been able to file many patents, and I have been able to offer many internal patent education training sessions and events. Invention is important and I want to support and encourage as many people to do it as possible. I believe that everybody can invent.  That’s something I really value about the AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassador Program, all the Invention Ambassadors have the same vision – to have a bigger impact on our societies, and for the general public to recognize the value of invention. This program allows me the opportunity to offer similar patent and invention education sessions to the general public, to inspire more people to proceed with invention.

How can invention help us?

I believe in any country, either a developed country or developing country, everybody has their own challenges. Developed countries still have issues even those they have even though access to lots of modern technologies. We still need to solve problems like health, aging, security and the environment. This is why I believe that in any type of environment we need to continually invent. I want to share some of my patents to help people understand why invention is important and how it can help:

  1. We all have very busy lives these days, sometimes we may not feel well but we don’t have the time to make an appointment to go see a doctor. So I created a system that can monitor objects that a user interacts with on a daily basis. From the data that the system collects, it can analyze what illness the user may have, or be on their way to getting. For example, the user may work on the computer all day, or be a long distance truck drivers who needs to keep their hands on the steering wheel, because of these environmental and behavioural indicators, the system can let those people know that they may be at a risk of getting Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. The system will then automate the evaluation process and guide people on prevention for this type of illness.
  2. Another invention was inspired when I went back to China recently. Some of the street maps in Beijing now have braille on them and I was excited to see that the government had made an effort to help people who need assistive technology. But I also recognized it was still very challenging for these people to go from point A to point B in those very busy districts. So I created an invention that allows the users smartphone to download the navigation instruction. This way the user can actually carry the information with them as they go, and it can help direct them in the way that will help them best.

I believe that inventing for all is definitely an inventor’s responsibility.

How do we make sure that we invent for everybody?

We need invention ambassadors from all different kinds of backgrounds. This is because everybody has their own specialty. In the AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassador Program, all the Invention Ambassadors come from entirely different fields, which brings collaboration and idea sharing. We need to continue growing the Invention Ambassador Program because we need people to talk to, not only the general public, but their own communities, about how invention is important. We need to be getting as many different people as possible involved in the process.

What has been the impact of being an AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassador?

I was very honored and excited when I was notified that I got accepted to be a AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassador. It has helped me and my career a lot because through this Invention Ambassador Program we received training on creating technical presentations and we had the opportunity to enhance our communication skills. When I studied Computer Science at college I always thought I’d be writing software code for the rest of my life, so it was wonderful to actually learn how to build very meaningful narratives into my technical presentations – and I even started writing blogs which has really been fun. I also feel very fortunate to be able to learn from all the other Invention Ambassadors as we all have the same goals but different approaches.