IBM Inventor Lisa Seacat DeLuca has filed over 500 patents
Being the most prolific woman inventor in IBM history is something former Carnegie Mellon University student and current software engineer Lisa Seacat DeLuca is very proud of. However, she has set her goals even higher. “There is no limit. The most prolific male inventor has twice as many as I do,” she said. “I would like to be the most prolific, rather than the most prolific woman, inventor.”
For Seacat DeLuca, being creative started early in her life. “When I was growing up in Montana, there wasn’t a lot to do,” she recalled. “My brother, sister, and I were playing make-believe and I did plays with my stuffed animals. I was always using the creative part of my brain.”
The Carnegie Mellon computer science program is regularly recognized as one of the best in the U.S. and Seacat DeLuca appreciated that her path was not similar to most other students in the program. “I had no coding experience before Carnegie Mellon,” she commented. “I think I had such different experiences growing up that were not the norm so I had a different perspective and approached problems differently.”
She credits the traits she possessed from being a student-athlete for choosing such a difficult major. “My competitive nature made me choose computer science. I heard it was harder to move from IT (information technology) to computer science than the other way around,” she stated. “I taught myself HTML and IT when I was in high school. It was in my mind to say, ‘I will not give up. I am determined to succeed.’”
Attending school and playing sports in season, Seacat DeLuca was setting her career path in motion in the summers. She began interning with software engineering positions, first in Montana, then in Rochester, Minnesota and Raleigh, North Carolina.
In the summer between her junior and senior year, Seacat DeLuca was accepted into IBM’s “Extreme Blue” program in Raleigh, an intense, fast-paced, 12-week global internship. The program allows top business and technical students to design, architect, develop, and test an innovative product based on the elements of world-class talent, technology, and business innovation.
She accepted a position with IBM before her senior year and took a position in Austin, Texas , while her boyfriend Steve, a geneticist who played football at Carnegie Mellon, lived in D.C. She earned her master’s degree from University of Texas-Austin. The couple decided to move together to San Francisco, where Seacat DeLuca continued to work at IBM. After her husband earned his PhD, the couple moved to Baltimore, where they now reside with two sets of twins, four children under the age of four.
One of her challenges now is balancing work and family life. “I am still working that part out,” she admitted. “The boys (the older twins) are in school now.” She has the privilege of working at home, while continuing her work and filing patents.
Seacat DeLuca has filed more than 500 patents, about half of which have been granted. She says she learned the process from others and her favorite patent is one she wrote and filed herself outside of IBM in which someone could attend a sporting event with a valid ticket for multiple seats. “It is a chance to have a different experience from the people to the perspective,” she stated. “The fan could pay proportionally for how long they were there. The patent made it all the way through the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) process and I did every part of it.”
She has also written two children’s books. The first, A Robot Story, teaches children how to count to 10 in binary. Her second book, The Internet of Mysterious Things, is due for release in May (https://internetofmysteriousthings.com).
Being highlighted as a “woman inventor” is nothing new for Seacat DeLuca, working in a field dominated by men. “Working from home, I don’t notice the predominance of men in the field as much, but it is brought to my attention quite a bit,” she said. “I realized I can do anything a man can do. As a parent, I want to make sure my girls have the same toys and similar opportunities as my boys. It is about exposure to technology so if they have the passion, they can pursue it and I will support them however I can."
DeLuca’s Inventions and Ideas
She’s a problem solver, so DeLuca’s inventions, ideas and patents are all geared towards improving day-to-day issues and annoyances by applying and manipulating existing technology to enhance our daily grinds.
She specializes in software and mobile app programming and she’s used these skills to dream up products and programs that utilize Smart Phones, wifi, social media, instant messaging and many other forms of communication technology. Here are just a few of DeLuca’s many creations:
- A net of lights to drape over a house – or anywhere - that can be individually controlled by drawing on your Smart Phone, tablet or other device.
- A necklace – or “wearable” that notifies you when you’ve received a Tweet.
- Laundry NFC (near field communication) tags you can stick on your washer and dryer that start your machines, begin a countdown and then alert your smart phone when your loads of laundry have finished.
- Securely identifying host systems, enabling more secure identity control in cloud computing environments.
DeLuca prophesizes about the future of mankind in her TED Talk saying, “our lives in the next 20-50 years will pretty much be the exact same as they are today – only with some really cool toys.”
Some of these “toys” that DeLuca imagines include (all mentioned in the Ted Talk linked above):
- Empty toilet paper rolls that automatically communicate with your favorite brand’s company and will place an order for a new supply without any interaction from you
- Clothing hangers that glow red if an item in your closet hasn’t been worn in 6 months – and a closet that will suggest you donate neglected items
- Sensors for pets that measure their heartrates - if they get overly excited about anything, you’ll be notified via your Smart Phone
- Programming that will aggregate what everyone in a room has or has not seen in terms of movies, television shows, documentaries, etc., and will suggest something completely new for the group to watch based on watching history and preferences
- A hand-held hologram TV screen that you can watch anywhere at any time with minimal effort, even while others are watching something else on the Tube
- 3D printers that can efficiently produce an emergency umbrella in minutes if you’re stuck at the office without one, which you can then melt down into a toy to entertain your kids as you prepare dinner in an oven that preheated itself based on a recipe you chose prior
DeLuca holds a humble and inspiring opinion of inventing, saying it’s “…just a way of thinking. We all have an inventor inside of us” – programmer or not. Thanks to great minds like hers, who use the gift of creativity to make the world better for all of us one daily task at a time, we’ve got some bright days ahead.
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Source: Quirky: https://shop.quirky.com/blogs/news/great-female-inventor-lisa-seacat-deluca
Source 2: University Athletic Association: http://uaasports.info/sports/general/30for30/seacatdeluca