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BuzzBall Wins 2019 Founder's Innovation Prize
By Christina Basken
July 25, 2019 - Ethan Brodsky's BuzzBall invention, designed to help maintain coordinated flight, took first place in the Founder's Innovation Prize contest on Tuesday night.
"It consists of a seat cushion overlay or it can go in the cushion already in the aircraft, and it's got two vibrating buzzers in the cushion, and when the ball gets out of center one of those two buzzers vibrates," Ethan said.
By having two buzzers on the left and right of the seat cushion, the pilot knows which foot to step on without having to constantly look down at the gauge and watch the ball wiggle back and forth.
EAA's Founder's Innovation Prize competition aims to reduce the rate of in-flight loss of control accidents in experimental amateur-built aircraft by challenging EAA members to come up with solutions. Submissions range from technology to training and are evaluated based on effectiveness, ease of installation, and cost.
Five finalists are chosen each year to present their solutions in front of a panel of expert judges. The judges then award first-, second-, and third-place winners with prizes of $25,000, $10,000, and $5,000 respectively.
In 2017 Ethan built a prototype for the contest that received fourth place. He used that competition as a learning experience and improved his design.
"In 2017 the judges asked, 'Hey what happens if the aircraft is actually in a spin — might this vibration indication be on the wrong side?'" Ethan said. "And I said, 'You know, you're right; the worst thing is a safety system that tells you the wrong thing to do in a stressful situation.' So I did a lot more testing and tuning. It's persistence. I got some money to keep working on it and some affirmation that I was on the right track — and I got so, so close in 2017 and I thought it was a good idea. And maybe with a little more development, testing, and some data, and some improvements to the presentation, it might be able to get at least top three … and here we are."
Ethan said he knew if he didn't continue to improve his innovation and try again, it would be just another thing that gets talked about and never built.
"It feels great. I feel so on top of the world right now," Ethan said. "It was so frustrating in 2017 to get so close, and I thought it was good then but it wasn't quite there. It feels great to have this affirmation, you know after all the late nights and all the time that I put into this, so that it could be something people could use."