Showcasing ‘Hergonomics’ at Maker Faire
Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, and George Washington Carver are among the country’s most historic inventors.
Maker Faire is an event where families can interact with makers, tinkerers, and inventors from across the country and examine their STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)-related projects. The event will also reflect the diversity of the American spirit with representatives from minority-serving institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and others in attendance.
The list of presenters includes Green Heron Tools, a company that empowers women by creating agricultural and gardening tools that are designed to work with women’s bodies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has supported the efforts of Green Heron Tools with three Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants totaling more than $572,000.
In Green Heron’s first SBIR grant, the company set design parameters for tools and equipment designed for women, created prototypes of three hand tools, including the “hergonomic” HERShovel – and established design concepts for a woman-specific rototiller. Hergonomic is Green Heron’s trademarked term, meaning ergonomic for women.
“We look for innovative ideas with good scientific technical merit,” Charles Cleland, NIFA’s SBIR national program leader, said. “Green Heron was tackling the issue of farm safety for women, and farm safety is an important issue, so it really stood apart from other applications.”
With their second grant, Green Heron carried forward a rototiller project they examined with their first grant. This time they were able to reach the “beta” development phase and have filed patents. The company just received its third award and will conduct new design research.
“‘One-size-fits-all’ is and always has been a myth,” said Liz Brensinger, Green Heron Tools co-founder. “It’s convenient for manufacturers and a disservice for consumers. One of the most basic principles of ergonomics is that tools should fit – yet that principle has been ignored.”
In addition to the human health benefits of hergonomic design, the company’s rototiller is also eco-friendly. “The Green Heron Tools tiller, which we expect to market in 2016, is significantly gentler on the operator, the soil, and the planet,” said Ann Adams, Green Heron’s other co-founder. “There’s virtually no vibration compared with a traditional till and the soil isn’t pulverized.
“A redesigned till was the number-one priority of farmers and market growers we surveyed during our first SBIR project, and we’re excited to introduce the first true tilling innovation in many years,” Adams said. “Without support from USDA, this project never would have happened.”
NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and extension and seeks to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges.