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Gone the way of the leaves.

DURING ONE WINTER ABOUT SIX YEARS AGO, Brian Nagamatsu realized he had a problem. "I was actually living at the time in Glenville, N.Y.--upstate New York where they get lots of snow," he said.

What was a typical situation for millions of Americans living in snow- and ice-prone regions became grounds for a challenge for Nagamatsu. As a self-described inventor with a B.S.M.E. from Union College and an M.S.M.E. from the University of Illinois, Nagamatsu didn't sit by while snow collected around his home. Instead, he took his leaf blower and went outside. "I was interested in seeing how a leaf blower would do blowing snow," he said. "So, I took my leaf blower and I stuck it into a big snow pile."

Unfortunately for Nagamatsu, the snow blew back and turned him into a living snowman. Rather than give up, Nagamatsu continued tinkering with his new idea. "I started thinking, 'What happens if I put a blade on the end so that the snow wouldn't blow back towards me [but instead] would blow away from me and move the snow?'"

Six years later, the AirJet Shovel had a home on Amazon and Home Depot's websites.

The AirJet Shovel is an extension piece designed to fit the round exhaust pipe of a leaf blower with an ideal output of 400 CFM or more. The shovel utilizes the powerful air flow of leaf blowers to disperse snow and clear the ground. Its blade and skids assist in navigating surfaces such as sidewalks and decks. The shovel is held to the snow blower pipe by a Velcro tape fastener.

The idea sounds simple enough, but the path to production required several versions of the AirJet Shovel. From a simple prototype of a single outlet port hole in a piece of flat board, the AirJet Shovel evolved to include two, and even four, ports for air. As Nagamatsu streamlined back to a single port for manufacturing, he also added and later removed wheels on the shovel, according to the AirJet Shovel's website. They were replaced by skids. The final result is a simple tool that extends the useful season of a leaf blower from autumn into winter.

Now that he lives in Utah, Nagamatsu said he found the AirJet Shovel worked well in clearing powder snow. "You want to use it in the lighter snow and also for cleanup from heavy snow," he said. "But don't expect it to replace a two-stage, six-horsepower snow blower."

With winter right around the corner, Nagamatsu said the shovel would make a great gift. "The kids will be fighting over it! It's totally different and fun for using," he said. "If someone has a leaf blower, then it's kind of a no-brainer."

Up next: Nagamatsu said his company was looking at getting the AirJet Shovel into retail outlets and taking the AirJet Shovel to the streets--as a snowplow attachment for pickup trucks.

B.L. LOGAN is a journalist who is studying at the Institut d'etudes politiques de Paris.

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Title Annotation:TECH BUZZ
Comment:Gone the way of the leaves.(TECH BUZZ)
Author:Logan, B.L.
Publication:Mechanical Engineering-CIME
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2014
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