November 18, 2017
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  • Bill Ridenhour has helped construct biomedical labs in Abuja, Nigeria and several areas in Africa.
    Bill Ridenhour has helped construct biomedical labs in Abuja, Nigeria and several areas in Africa.
  • Realizing that insect repellents were doing long-term harm to his skin, Bill Ridenhour created the IR Bracelet by super-infusing plant oils into the cotton.
    Realizing that insect repellents were doing long-term harm to his skin, Bill Ridenhour created the IR Bracelet by super-infusing plant oils into the cotton.

Arnold Inventor Is Over The Moon About Lifesaving Inventions

Zach Sparks
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November 3, 2017

Bill Ridenhour Discusses New Insect-Repelling Bracelet

Before his mom died of cancer in the 1980s, Bill Ridenhour made her two promises: that he would finish college with at least a master’s degree and that he would work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The fulfillment of the first promise is still in progress, but the second pledge came true.

“I’ve always loved airplanes – the whole notion of flight and space travel,” said Ridenhour, who worked at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda before joining NASA. “Life didn’t give me a hand of cards where it was stacked so neatly like that, but I knew I would eventually work for NASA. It didn’t matter if it took five years, 10 years, or 50 years.”

A mechanical engineer, Ridenhour has worked at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center since 2012, managing the operations and maintenance of facilities that do everything from analyze data from deep space probes to individual proteins in dust from Mars.

On nights and weekends, he runs his one-man company, Global Solstice. His passion is finding sustainable, eco-friendly solutions to the world’s problems, whether that’s converting saltwater to freshwater or his newest endeavor, the Insect-Repelling Bracelet.

Ridenhour has identified as an inventor all his life.

“I grew up in a small North Carolina mill town, Concord,” Ridenhour said. “It’s not so little now, but it was when I was there. We didn’t have a lot growing up, but we were not wanting either. If we ever needed something, Mom and Dad would make it or fix it, and that always bred in me that idea that if you have a problem, you have to find a way to solve it.”

When he was a sophomore at North Carolina State University, Ridenhour found a unique challenge to solve. Cancer survivor and civil rights activist Jim Letherer had swollen and calloused hands every time he ran on crutches because the impact would shear the connecting pins apart. To solve this dilemma, Ridenhour created shock-absorbing crutches.

“The crutches allowed Jim Letherer, an amazingly courageous one-leg amputee, to walk and run across America to raise money for cancer research,” Ridenhour said. “All along his route, he would stop at children’s hospitals and talk to the kids and encourage them to always reach for their dreams.”

Ridenhour has continued to reach for his own dreams, focusing on projects that meet critical needs. Over the last 14 years, he has traveled to Africa 20 times to build labs where scientists conduct biomedical research. “There is so much need, especially with emerging diseases, and researchers need a place to study them safely,” Ridenhour said.

To protect his skin from mosquitoes while traveling to Africa, he was introducing his skin to chemicals that could cause long-term damage. That revelation came in 2010 while he was taking a toxicology and risk management graduate class at Harvard University Extension School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“It was in this class that I began to understand the sizeable risk involved in continuing to use chemical repellents that are applied directly to the skin,” he said. “Even in small doses, the long-term untoward effects of using the chemicals over and over, year after year, were staggering due to the gradual bioaccumulation of the chemicals in our body. That’s when I first started to conceive the IR Bracelet.”

To ward off mosquitoes, the IR Bracelet uses a proprietary blend of six oils including peppermint, eucalyptus and lavender. “Throughout the earth’s tropic zone, where the climate is most favorable for large mosquito populations, nature has provided a variety of plants and flowers whose fragrances are natural mosquito and insect repellents,” Ridenhour said. “By harnessing these fragrances and transferring them to the cotton bracelets, we have created a wearable, all-natural insect repellent.”

While wearing the IR Bracelet exclusively during his last two trips to Africa, Ridenhour received two mosquito bites, “which is a much better result than when I was using the chemical repellents,” he noted. “The important thing to remember is that no repellent – natural or chemical – is 100 percent effective. Dose really matters. The goal is to minimize the number of mosquito bites that you receive and to minimize the amount of chemical exposure that you receive. The IR Bracelet accomplishes both of these goals.”

Ridenhour launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a machine that would allow him to super-infuse the oils into bracelets.

“The device to super-infuse the oils into the cotton fibers uses a specific pressure and temperature combination to enhance the cotton fiber’s ability to fully absorb the oils,” Ridenhour said, adding that this method could prolong the bracelet’s effectiveness from about one week to one or two months.

The Kickstarter ran from July 26 to August 25. Even though the project fell $7,812 short of the $9,000 goal, Ridenhour called it a “tremendous learning experience.” He launched the campaign without building an audience, and the Kickstarter team has encouraged him to build interest and resurrect the campaign in January 2018.

In the meantime, Ridenhour will keep looking for problems to solve while working to keep that second promise to his mom by taking graduate classes at Harvard University Extension School. For more information on the IR Bracelet or Ridenhour, visit www.globalsolstice.com.

“I really feel like I am at the mid-point of my career,” Ridenhour said, “and I hope to use the second half of my career to focus on developing products that will make a positive impact in peoples’ lives whether it’s the IR Bracelet or converting saltwater to freshwater or any of several other ideas that I have that will help people meet their basic needs on a very individual level.”


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