September 23, 2014

Trendsetters

Innovators: Aerospace & Technology

Florida inventions: From the combat field to the football field ...

Mike Vogel | 11/1/2007

Bow Regard

David Jenkins
[Photo: Jeffrey Camp]

David Jenkins
University of Florida Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Associate engineer, Gainesville

UF competition for micro aerial vehicles: The first year’s smallest competitor could fit in a 31-inch sphere. The most recent fit in a 3-inch sphere.

He who hesitates ... winds up having to find another, better way to build a weapon that dates to the Stone Age.

David Jenkins, an archery buff and hunter, got a notion as a University of Florida freshman in 1962 that the traditional bow could be improved with pulleys and cables. The strength required to pull back a conventional bow increases as the archer draws the bow back farther and farther. Consequently, archers are under a lot of pressure to aim and shoot quickly, before their muscles give out.

Jenkins never got around to pursuing his idea, and within the decade someone else patented a pulley-and-cable compound bow that takes a fraction of the force to draw and hold cocked. Compound bows captured almost the entire market. “Perhaps I could have been the inventor of the compound bow, which would have been a good thing,” he says.

Jenkins, 63, hasn’t spent the last 40 years stewing over what might have been. He was instrumental in UF aerospace engineer’s decision to focus on micro aerial vehicles, a niche in which UF is a national leader under Peter Ifju.

But the bow nagged at Jenkins. A compound bow weighs more than a traditional bow, has a complicated mechanism requiring a mechanical “release” to shoot properly and looks inelegant. Jenkins devised an improvement that uses composite materials. He patented it in 2003. It looks like a traditional bow but is easier to bend and hold while waiting for a good shot. The Florida native plans better prototypes that he can take around to archery gatherings, hopefully impressing people enough to lead to commercialization.

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