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Prototype Online: Inventive Voices

Sharon Rogone, a neonatal nurse-turned-inventor, talks about her first invention

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Because some of the stuff we were using... I mean, the very earliest things we used was black paper that we cut and put--and everybody used them—cotton balls. And put those over the eyes and black paper. And then taped it, or did something with it, to secure it to the face. And that really wasn't very efficient we now know.

Sharon: Nobody has actually been able to pin it down to how much damage, but it's a phototherapy light. It's very bright. And even harsh lights of any kind are hard on a baby's eyes. So, there's a need for this protection for their eyes.

Maggie Dennis: I guess one question I always like to ask people is when they were kids, what kind of activities did you enjoy? What were your favorite classes? That sort of thing.

Sharon: I have always been an artsy, craftsy kind of person that did a lot of oil painting, charcoal painting, which I think plays into the inventing product because you have a creative mindset where you see things differently than other people see things that makes you say, "Hey, I could use that for something else than what it was intended." You look at something and you say, "That would work for this."

Another thing though, people think that an inventor is an unusual thing to be. But in actuality, everybody is an inventor. Every time that you think, when you're doing something like peeling a potato, or washing dishes, and you think, I wish I had something that would do this and this. If you pursue that, that's an invention.

But people just don't pursue those things. And the pursuit of it, and the perseverance to follow up on those ideas is what makes the difference. Not that you are an inventor, it's just that you push on to the next level, because everybody comes up with ideas. And then down the road, they think of something and down the road they say, "Oh, I thought of that a long time ago, but they didn't do anything with it."

So, ideas are like floating around in the air. And if you don't grab hold if it when you think of it, pursue it, then somebody else will. But ideas are out there just floating around. And what makes me follow up on it, I don't know. I've had that thing that I have written on my wall that says, "Perseverance is the only thing that gets you through. Just to keep at it, and keep at it, and keep at it."

Paul: I don't know whether you've ever thought of a hospital as a place of invention; but as we just heard from inventor Sharon Rogone, with her business partners Phil Rogone and Ken Croteau, it sure is.

Next time we'll hear more from the folks at Small Beginnings and about many of the other inventions they've developed to help keep premature babies alive and comfortable. Thanks for listening to "Prototype Online: Inventive Voices," brought to you from the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center for the study of Invention and Innovation at the National Museum of American History. I'm Paul Rosenthal.

We're anxious to hear your thoughts about this program or any others from the Lemelson Center. Send us an email. The address is lemcen@si.edu. And visit us on the web at invention.smithsonian.org where you can learn more about the great inventors and innovators of the 20th and 21st centuries.

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