Good times and designs at the Next Big Idea

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By Gabriel Vasquez

Curious festival-goers of every age strolled up and down 15th and Central Saturday, there to check out the future innovations of local inventors.

As a way to kick off the Next Big Idea, sponsored by Los Alamos MainStreet, independent developers and area companies set up booths displaying their latest creations. From the straightforward, single purpose devices like the bagel and doughnut stuffer, to the complex mobile wind generator designed by Eco-Dynamic Wind Solutions, the event had something for everybody.

“It’s very fun,” said event-goer Doris Lodwig. “I'm from White Rock and I don't come up here often. I've gotten to see lots of stuff but I'm still looking. I'm going to the LAVA display because I'm really interested in that,” she said.

The display Lodwig to which referred was one put on by Los Alamos Visual Analytics (LAVA) inside the Chamber of Commerce, an interactive booth that featured the company’s 3D imaging software.

Retiree Noel Calkins was proud to show the crowd his modified M-16, capable of rapidly and consistently firing shots even after being immersed in a foot of sand.

His invention, which uses a ceramic powder lubricant that prevents corrosion inside the gun barrel, allows for the weapon to be fired in almost any conditions without jamming.

“I’ve never cleaned a barrel since 1992,” said Calkins. “It’s the only technology that allows you to lubricate every round. Nobody’s ever done that; there’s nothing out there that can touch it.”

His invention could prove to be especially helpful in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan.

For the kids, face painting, M&M guessing games, giant bubble makers and hand electricity conductors were more than enough to keep them busy.

One out-of-towner, however, said the bagel-stuffing machine was his favorite.

“I like the one with the bagel – it’s really cool,” said nine-year-old Ben Carnahan. “Ice-cream in a bagel sounds really good, and in doughnuts, too.”

Carnahan was visiting from Vermont and planned to go to Bradbury Science Museum next.

The biggest attraction of the event seemed to be the “Watt Swap” booth sponsored by the Department of Public Utilities.

A constant line snaked around the street with eager residents hoping to trade in their incandescent light-bulbs for the energy-saving Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs, free of charge.

People were allowed to trade up to six of their old bulbs in for new ones.

Other popular displays included Robert Hockaday's multi-invention display, which featured non-fogging goggles and electrostatic eye-wear among several other of his creations, and Jessie Nichols’ custom motorcycle filter plates, mounted on a killer black chopper that drew many satisfied looks.