Written by Chris Boyle Thursday, 12 September 2013 00:00
Rafael Avila, manager of research and development at Natural Organics of Melville, has been tinkering to make new ideas into reality for most of his life.
Now the Farmingdale resident is looking to pass on his love of breathing life into his imaginings with the first of what he hopes will be a series of seminars on inventing.
On Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Farmingdale Public Library, Avila will host a seminar on inventing which he hopes will eventually grow into a series covering everything from concept and execution to fundraising and marketing. He hopes to establish a home-grown inventors’ movement.
“I want to have an organization where they can start moving on their ideas, and present them with the resources to do so,” he said. “How to present a concept to a business, acquire a patent, what materials are needed to build your creation, everything.”
Born in Glendale, CA, Avila has lived on Long Island since he was around four years old. Currently, he, his wife and two children call Farmingdale home.
“Being an inventor hobbyist, I talk about inventions all the time,” he says. “And the people that I talk to, at least 50 percent of the time someone will tell me they have this great idea that they want to work on, but most of the time they don’t do anything.”
Fascinated with inventing from a very early age, Avila’s passion only grew stronger as the years passed. For him, the old cliche about invention’s mother definitely held true.
“We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so I would invent things...out of necessity,” he says. He soon learned that reinventing meant he could improve design.
“For example, a friend of mine had a bait trap for fishing, and I couldn’t afford one, so I made one myself,” he says. “While my friend was pulling in a few small bait fish at a time, I was catching hundreds.”
Inspired by such early successes, Avila went on to tinker with grander and grander projects. He built his own bicycle. In college, he assembled his own computer by salvaging parts from the trash.
He went to college for biology and chemistry with aspirations of getting into the medical field; however, he took his time with school, bouncing between colleges and taking extended breaks until he eventually changed direction and became a nutritional bio-chemist, snagging a job at Natural Organics, where he has worked for the past 18 years.
“I was initially hired as a technical writer, but within a year I was doing three jobs here and writing for our company magazine as well,” he said. “When the weekends came, I couldn’t wait for them to end so I could get back to work on
Monday. That’s how much I love my job.”
Eventually, Avila was promoted manager of research and development. The job at Natural Organics went hand-in-hand with inventing, teaching vital information he lacked about the business aspect of the craft.
Using his new savvy, Avila began to enter his inventions in contests. One of his intentions, a cake decorating appliance he dubbed the “Choco-Laser,” was nearly carried by televised home shopping channel QVC—until it was discovered that someone else had patented the concept shortly beforehand. Since then, he has been working on an upgraded version of the Choco-Laser, but the incident taught him a valuable lesson: when you see an opportunity, you have to move fast.
For him, the event on September 17 serves two purposes: One, to help the library gauge the interest of the community in acquiring for public use an expensive 3D printing system called Maker Space, which can make a three-dimensional solid object from a digital model. This device, Avila said, can be an invaluable resource not only to inventors, but artists, architects, and students as well.
But the second reason for the seminar, Avila noted, is to share his knowledge with those starting out on the path he’s already traveled. He especially wants to inform aspiring inventors how to pursue an idea and how the laws governing patents can make it more difficult for people to get proper credit for their ideas.
But, in the end, he just wants to spread a positive message about the art of inventing: Armed with the right information and given a push, anyone can succeed.
“I want people to be empowered,” he said. “They might have a great idea, but they just don’t know what to do...and someone else just takes the ball and runs with it. I would prefer my friends and neighbors to not sit on their ideas, not be paralyzed by fear.”