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Dodge sixth-graders find chemistry with renowned polymer scientist

By APRIL HELMS Reporter Published: May 31, 2017 12:00 AM
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TWINSBURG -- Biology. Robotics. Medicine. The intellect and art of invention.

These were just a few of the fascinating fields presented to 30 Dodge Intermediate School sixth-graders May 16 during a visit from Dr. Joseph Kennedy, a distinguished professor of polymer science and chemistry at The University of Akron.

Kennedy, 88, spoke about his career, the 124 patents credited to him and the rigors (and virtues) of science.

"A patent is not an idea," Kennedy told a packed choir room at Dodge. "A patent is basically a deal, a bargain between the inventor and the state or the government."

The concepts for a patent are defined in the Constitution, and anyone who wants to patent an idea must meet three criteria, Kennedy said.

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"First, it has to be useful," Kennedy said. "Second, it has to be novel, or new. Third, the most difficult, is it must be surprising. It can't be something obvious."

What may not have been immediately obvious to students -- and pointed out by Kennedy -- was the number of items in the choir room that are patented.

"Anything, everything in this room is protected by patent," he said. "The paint on the wall, the electricity, the clothes we wear."

Kennedy is a renowned inventor and acclaimed professor, receiving degrees from Rutgers and the University of Budapest in Hungary.

One of Kennedy's more notable inventions is a "polystyrene-polyisobutylene-polystyrene block copolymer" and "thermoplastic elastomer" that is the basis for a biocompatible coating on Boston Scientific's TAXUS drug-eluting cardiovascular stent, which has been implanted in about five million patients worldwide.

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While the stent works to open clogged coronary arteries, Kennedy's polymer coating time-releases drugs and replaces the previous bare metal stent with one more compatible with human tissue.

All of his patents were completed through his work at The University of Akron.

The first patent, Kennedy told the students, can be the hardest.

"Once you have the first patent, the second and third ones are easy," he said.

However, securing the patent is not as crucial as the finished product, he said.

"There are 10 million patents in the United States," he said. "Perhaps one percent are really worth anything. What is important is really providing value to society."

Kennedy kept the students at rapt attention, and they flocked to him with questions after the presentation.

"He's a really good teacher," said sixth-grader Arriah Gilmer. "He should be a motivational speaker."

Dodge student Jessica Mason said she was impressed with the "many things he did, and how he keeps going."

"He never gives up," she said.

"He's really smart, and he works very, very hard," added Kimi Patel.

Students wrote essays for the chance to meet Kennedy.

"Dr. Kennedy was so generous and so kind to meet with the sixth-graders," said Dodge's Patty Spring, science and social studies teacher. "He did some amazing things in the healthcare field."

Spring said one of her students had a grandfather who recently had one of the polymer-coated stints put in.

Kennedy said he was happy to meet with the students.

"The letter I got from your teacher was so nice and so enthusiastic," Kennedy said. "I thought 'I have to meet these children.'"

Email: ahelms@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9423

Twitter: @twinsburgohio


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