What is it about a particular place that excites a creative mind? How do creative people shape the spaces in which they spend their days?
I love talking with inventors about their creative lives and careers. Better yet, I love speaking with them at their workplaces. There is nothing like visiting their personalized spaces, meeting their colleagues, seeing the tools they use, and, in some cases, hearing (and smelling) machines humming in the background.
Recently, I had the good fortune to visit Colorado State University's Engines and Energy Conversion Lab in Fort Collins and meet Dr. Morgan DeFoort. He is co-director of the EECL with Dr. Bryan Willson, who has been featured in the Lemelson Center's Inventive Voices podcast series. Morgan gave me an in-depth tour of the lab, an enormous, open space located inside an Art Deco building that began life in 1936 as the Fort Collins Power Plant.
The workshop, which is dominated by huge engines (up to 2,500 hp) and has high windows, was buzzing with graduate students and industry professionals working side-by-side on various projects. Machines of all sizes were in operation; the space smelled more like an auto repair shop than a "clean energy" lab. Nevertheless, EECL is a major player in developing not only cleaner engines but also technologies like smart grid power systems, algae biofuels, and efficient cook stoves. How does such a diverse team of assembled talents and backgrounds work together and complement each other in terms of innovation and creativity?