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Smithsonian Highlights Fort Collins as a “Place of Invention”

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When “Places of Invention,” the latest exhibition from the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, opens at the National Museum of American History on July 1, Fort Collins will be one of six communities representing what can happen when the right mix of inventive people, resources and inspiring surroundings come together and spark invention and innovation.

Inventors in Fort Collins are tackling environmental problems by creating clean, sustainable alternatives to existing energy sources.

At Prieto Battery, new materials and electroplating methods are eliminating toxic substances from rechargeable batteries and decreasing charging time and production costs.

New super turbochargers that promise to dramatically increase efficiency and reduce emissions in vehicle engines are being tested at VanDyne SuperTurbo.

Researchers at Spirae, Inc. are inventing “smart grid” technology that integrates renewable and distributed energy sources and produces a more reliable electricity supply. Colorado State University, the city and community businesses, like New Belgium Brewery, actively pursue collaborations that result in local innovations with global impact.

Case Study Snapshot:

Featured Persons: Amy Prieto, Ed VanDyne, Sunil Cherian, Bryan Willson, Kim Jordan, Judy Dorsey,

Highlighted Objects: VanDyne SuperTurbo Prototype (2009), Prieto Prototype Battery Components (2014), EnviroFit Cookstove Prototype (2011, on loan from Colorado State University)

About “Places of Invention”

“Places of Invention,” will take visitors on a journey through time and place across America to discover the stories of people who lived, worked, played, collaborated, adapted, took risks, solved problems, and sometimes failed—all in the pursuit of something new. The exhibition features six communities representing what can happen when the right mix of inventive people, resources, and inspiring surroundings come together.

  • The story of precision manufacturing in Hartford, Conn. in the late 1800s shows how a factory town puts the pieces together in explosive new ways;
  • Technicolor in Hollywood, Calif. in the 1930s puts the spotlight on the young town that gave birth to the movies’ Golden Age;
  • In the 1950s, cardiac innovations in Medical Alley, Minn. illuminate how a tight-knit community of tinkerers keeps hearts ticking;
  • Hip-hop’s birth in the Bronx, NY, in the 1970s looks at how neighborhood ingenuity created new beats;
  • The rise of the personal computer in Silicon Valley, Calif. in the 1970s–80s adds up to how suburban garage hackers plus lab researchers equaled personal computing;
  • Clean-energy innovations in Fort Collins, Colo., today demonstrate how campus and community combine their energies for a greener planet.

A large interactive map will feature text, images and video highlighting innovative communities across the country and around the globe. Visitors, both on-site and online, will be able to explore and discuss case studies as well as contribute stories about their own communities. A companion book will be available through the Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press June 30. “Places of Invention” is a signature part of the National Museum of American History’s 40,000-square-foot space centered on the theme of innovation, where the museum is transforming how its audiences will experience history.

“Places of Invention” is made possible by the National Science Foundation, Intel, the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc. and the Lemelson Foundation.

About the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation

The Lemelson Center has led the study of invention and innovation at the Smithsonian since 1995. The center’s activities advance scholarship on the history of invention, share stories about inventors and their work and nurture creativity in young people. The Lemelson Hall of Invention and Innovation opens July 1 and will feature “Places of Invention,” Draper Spark!Lab and “Inventive Minds.” The center is supported by The Lemelson Foundation and located in the National Museum of American History. For more information, visit

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