A Brainiac on the Nerd Patrol

Maybe, like me, you were reading the latest issue of Wired, specifically the story headlined "The Rise of Crowdsourcing." Contained in that piece is a fascinating section about a company called InnoCentive, which was launched in 2001 by pharmaceutical maker Eli Lilly "as a way to connect with brainpower outside the company--people who could help develop drugs and speed them to market," as Jeff Howe writes. After a few fits and starts, InnoCentive finally got on track two years ago, when the likes of DuPont, Boeing and Procter & Gamble started posting their hard-to-solve problems on the site and offering cash reward to anyone on the Web who might be able to, ya know, solve 'em. Think of it as a cash advance on a job interview, or maybe a cheap-ass think tank for corporations clearly in need of smarter people.

Anyway, maybe, like me, you came across the following paragraph and had some questions--chiefly, who dat? To wit:

"The solvers are not who you might expect. Many are hobbyists working from their proverbial garage, like the University of Dallas undergrad who came up with a chemical to use in art restoration, or the Cary, North Carolina, patent lawyer who devised a novel way to mix large batches of chemical compounds."

But never does the piece mention the name of the guy from the University of Dallas. Well, after a little searching, I found his name: Drew Buschhorn, who, according to a 2004 piece in Mass High Tech, which is published by The Journal of New England Technology, was a senior studying chemistry at UD when he won his $10,000 prize. For what? Well, for doing this: "for finding a new compound for preserving materials as the Environmental Protection Agency phases out the cyclododecane compound the company was using." Dude, I did that for free years ago. Apparently, Buschhorn didn't spend too much time on it, either: MHT says he spent a total of six hours doing the research and writing the paper. He's now an instructor in the chemistry department at the University of Indiana-Bloomington; I totally turned down that job. --Robert Wilonsky


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