From ancient times to present day, Hawaiians have been inventing things that influence more than just life on the Islands. Pineapple peelers, surfboards and even a “jet lag forecaster” were all developed in the state, and you’ll have fun discovering how these big ideas came to fruition.
In the early 1900s, Henry Ginaca left his job as a mechanical draftsman in San Francisco to work at Honolulu Iron Works. It wasn’t long before businessman James D. Dole hired him to create an automated machine to prepare pineapples for canning. Up until then, pineapples were peeled and sliced by hand, which was a laborious, inefficient process. The “Ginaca machine” was ready in a year, able to precisely cut and trim at a rate of 50 pineapples per minute. The invention tripled Dole’s production capabilities and helped expand Hawaii’s agriculture industry. Variations of Ginaca’s machine are still used today. Learn more at http://files.asme.org/asmeorg/communities/history/landmarks/5557.pdf, and by taking a tour of Oahu’s Dole Plantation where over a million visitors stop by each year. More information about “Hawaii’s Complete Pineapple Experience” can be found at www.dole-plantation.com.
It’s said that surfing was invented in Hawaii centuries ago, and the equipment has been evolving ever since. Major contributions to the development of the modern-day surfboard were made in the 1920s and 1930s thanks to Tom Blake, an accomplished swimmer and surfer. The lightweight Tom Blake Hollow Surfboard was first produced in the late 1920s and quickly became popular – even fishermen used them as platforms. Blake continued to invent surfing and water sport equipment including a waterproof camera housing (1929), the sailboard (1931), collapsible surfboard (1932) and rescue ring (1937). Learn more about Blake’s hollow wood surfboards at www.woodsurfboards.com/blake.htm, and check out the Honolulu Surfing Museum (www.honolulusurfmuseum.com) for exhibits on the history and evolution of this popular sport.
Hawaiian inventors are still going strong in the present day, too. In 2011, the Honolulu Star Advisor reported that 210 patents were awarded to local residents in 2010, a 57 percent jump from the previous year. While most of the inventions were from the state’s high-tech companies like Hoana Medical Inc. and Oceanit Laboratories, there were several patents given to “garage inventors,” individuals with no investor or corporate backing. Patented devices include a "lounge chair cover," "miniature dental flossing packet," jet lag forecaster," "air conditioned helmet apparatus” and "hydrofoil for a surfboard.” Some of these patents may never go into production, but they represent the impressive creative minds of Hawaii. Read the entire article from the Star Advisor, which features an interview with inventor Scott Mullen, at www.staradvertiser.com/business/20110123_Hawaii_patents_hit_record_high.html?id=114441529.
Whether you have a knack for creating useful gadgets or you simply enjoy learning about imaginative designs, take some time to explore Hawaii’s big inventions and the great innovators behind them.