FINDING THAT "AHA MOMENT"

AHA MOMENT

noun, Informal.
1. a point in time, event, or experience when one has a sudden insight or realization:
My aha moment was when I  came up with a fixture to make drilling the holes in The Buckwheat easier.  

 I was once told that there are always more solutions than there are problems.  That is a quote that has followed me my entire life.  As an Architect by trade I am constantly looking for a better solution, with the exception of the mousetrap of course.  

The Buckwheat came as a solution for my father's need to be able to feed himself.  The first iteration was a bit clunky but I knew it was only a quick prototype to get the functionality and needs accessed.  I also wanted to make sure that dad liked it and would use it.  He loved it!  I don't think he thought there was a need for any more changes and that it was perfect the way it was.  To me though, there was a better solution.  It needed to be lighter, easier to clean, no moving parts, and easy to use.  


Since I draw and design aluminum extrusions for a living it was a natural choice to start there.  The finish needed to be of food grade and not a paint that will chip so I decided to go with a clear anodized finish.  This is not always the most attractive due to the extrusion process but, it does provide a great surface that can easily be sanitized.  

With a round tube it is always a struggle to make connections.  As a cyclist I was well aware of how modern bike forks and stems were connected so that was a simple solution.  The prototype went through several clip iterations to get the clamping pressures for both the 60ml syringe and the 140ml syringe correct.  I was able to source all of the clips from the same manufacturer but you have to buy in bulk.  

Lastly was the base.  I wanted it to be light and made of recycled plastic so that I could recess the base fastener so that if it were to be used on a nice hardwood chair it wouldn't damage the chair.  I was lucky enough to source the base disks locally and they even cut them into rounds for me and recycled the waste from the sheets!  That was a win-win.  

 In order to keep the cost low I needed to keep the drilling, tapping, and final assembly in house.  Luckily I was a machinist mate in the Navy so this was a breeze.  I have created several fixtures and tools to make them as simple as possible to fabricate.  

The missing piece was how to drill 3 holes on a round tube that were all in line.  I know I could buy a super expensive vise that they use for end mills but I don't want to pass that on to the end user.  So yesterday I finally came up with the fixture pictured above that drills 3 holes in line at the top dead center of the tube every time!!!  The best part?  It was only $12 worth of raw materials and cuts out 3 steps in my drilling process.  

I had my "Aha Moment" yesterday while designing a new facade for a building in Seattle.  On my trip home I stopped and bought the parts.  I busted through the door without even kissing my amazing wife Annie and went straight to putting my new solution to work.  

I keep a picture of my father "Buckwheat" on the wall next to my work bench.  I miss him dearly but with each feeding tube holder I make I know he is smiling down on me.  I know that he had no idea what a legacy his death would bring.  Along with The Buckwheat I have raised over $750K dollars for ALS research with the ALS Bike Trek MN.  


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