Two local inventors share their stories
DICKINSON - Kyle Thiel and Kari Warberg, inventors from western North Dakota, told their stories of turning concepts into reality on Tuesday at Dickinson State University's Strom Center.
Thiel, a DSU graduate, has developed a virtual guide that uses GPS to track the locations of tourists as they visit points of interest in downtown Dickinson. The guide's interface informs users with text, audio, video and still images.
"It's like you have a tour guide with you but no strings attached," he said.
Thiel said his idea came while driving through a Hawaiian rainforest, listening to a CD that identified plants and wildlife. That experience got him thinking: why not a handheld device that can be used by drivers and walkers?
So he obtained a grant from the university and set about exploring ways to execute his concept. Toby Stroh, an agriculture professor, suggested that Thiel try applying GPS, a network of satellites that can identify a user's location, to make the idea work.
Experimenting with a GPS device, Thiel determined he could use his knowledge of computer programming to write corresponding software for his guide.
The Dickinson Museum Center has some of his so-called vGuides and will soon allow visitors to use them, he said.
"I've talked to a few businesses in Dickinson who said they thought it was a pretty good idea and that they would get on board in the future," Thiel said.
His device has the potential to be used in national parks, historical sites and other points of interest, he said.
While Thiel is still in the research and development stages with his product, Warberg has transformed her brainstorms into a company that is projecting $2.2 million in sales for 2008.
Warberg, the founder and CEO of the Stanley-based Crane Creek Gardens, invented and now sells rodent repellents and air fresheners made from natural ingredients.
She got started selling produce to grocery stores, companies and shoppers at farmers' markets. In her first year, she cleared $600. Wanting to know why her hard work wasn't paying off, she looked to the businesses that were buying her products.
"How can they guarantee themselves a 30 percent markup when we can't growing it?" she wondered.
She had lots of time to mull over that question after a motorcycle accident left her immobilized. Ultimately, she decided to stop growing and start producing, distributing and selling the rodent repellent and air freshener she had conceived.
Warberg said a significant part of being a successful entrepreneur is overcoming fear.
"If you can take fear out of it, you can take out all of the boundaries," she said.
The event was the fourth and final one in the Strom Center's conference series.