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The A. James Clark School of Engineering has named alumnus Charles H. (Chuck) Popenoe as the 2018 inductee to its Innovation Hall of Fame. A 1957 graduate of Aerospace Engineering, Popenoe is being honored for inventing SmartBolts®, bolts that have a built-in indicator that changes color to display actual tension. The indicator design is reusable so it provides value at installation and allows you to monitor preload for the life of the bolt.

After graduation, Popenoe joined the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, working on missile and rocket design for the US Navy. In 1962, he began a 27-year career at NIST as an experimental plasma physicist. In this capacity, he invented and developed a universal laboratory data acquisition and control system called MIDAS, which continues to be used throughout NIST and in many world laboratories. Popenoe also designed and constructed the Facility for Spectroradiometric Calibrations (FASCAL), conceived together with his colleague Dr. J.B. Shumaker. FASCAL has been in continuous operation since the 1970s for the calibration of laboratory spectral radiance sources.

Mr. Popenoe later founded Stress Indicators, Inc. (now known as Industrial Indicators and run by his son Charles H. Popenoe III) to sell his SmartBolts®.  He developed and marketed a manufacturable model called the DTI SmartBolt, which was adopted by General Electric for use in its electrical distribution product line. GE’s ongoing use led to the commercial success of the product and growth of the company. The DTI SmartBolt displays actual fastener tension with a red to black scale. If the bolt is loose, the indicator is red, and when the bolt has proper preload, it is black. Today, hundreds of thousands of DTI SmartBolts® are being used by many of the world’s leading companies.

Mr. Popenoe has been granted some 35 U.S. and international patents. His awards include: two Gold Medal Awards, the Inventors Exposition, 1971; the U.S. Department of Commerce Silver Medal Award for Laboratory Automation, NIST, 1975; the Award for Exceptional Creativity, Intellectual Property Owners, 1994; First Place, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Inventors Exposition, 1994; and the Lifetime Achievement Award, the Western/Ellington Alumni Association, 2000.

The Innovation Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place December 6 at 12:00 p.m. in the Innovation Hall of Fame area on the first floor of the Kim Building. The Innovation Hall of Fame recognizes Clark School alumni, faculty, and associates who have pioneered many of the most significant engineering advances in the past century. Inductees include Robert Briskman, the co-founder of Sirius Satellite Radio; George Laurer, inventor of the Universal Product Code; and Brian Hinman, the innovator behind the Polycom SoundStation conference call device.



October 23, 2018


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