Alma man is always inventing; his secret? 'Find something that bugs you, make it better'

  • Article by: MARY JUHL , Winona Daily News
  • Updated: July 8, 2013 - 12:06 AM

Whether he's awake or asleep, Bob Albertson is always working.

The 76-year-old inventor "programs" his thoughts each evening so that he'll continue to create new ideas in his dreams. Every night before going to bed, he makes a to-do list of tasks he'll complete the next day.

"I work until I accomplish everything," Albertson said of his daily routine.

Albertson's career began, he said, when he invented a prototype of the fresh brew coffeemaker at age 15. In his 50-plus year career, he's created numerous prototypes and secured more than 200 patents, 48 for products currently on the market, the Winona Daily News reported (http://bit.ly/12kbQUd). And he has 12 products in the works waiting to be licensed.

Albertson's work includes patents on the weed eater and creating an ATV electric vehicle, the pulsating shower massager, and the cordless pay telephone.

His philosophy is simple.

"Find something that bugs you, and figure out how to make it better," Albertson said.

Albertson is originally from Minneapolis, where he wasn't exclusively an inventor. In his late teens and early 20s, he said, he enjoyed a successful career in photojournalism, shooting pictures for Time-Life Magazine, the Minneapolis Star and Playboy magazine and worked as the team photographer for the Minneapolis Lakers. He also worked as a private contractor for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and entered the pay telephone business in 1984.

Today, Albertson's goal is to create new items that can be produced locally. The presence of a strong manufacturing industry in Winona and the surrounding area provides plenty of opportunities, though none of his inventions are currently made in the area.

Albertson is waiting for patents on products that could not only supplement the local economy, but may impact regional issues like the growing frack sand industry, he said. One pending invention is an air purifier constructed with a filtering screen attached to a box fan. The combination could be placed in windows and used to gauge levels of silica sand particulates at a much lower cost than pricey air-quality monitoring equipment, Albertson said. Air purifiers are already on the market, but his would be much cheaper than traditional models.

"Every invention out there, all it is is an improvement of something," Albertson said.

Albertson is also seeking patents for a new weed eater, a rubbish burner, a 10-in-1 multitool, and more.

One invention he spends a considerable amount of time on these days has been in the works for about 40 years: the electric car.

Albertson says his electric version of a 2011 Ford Ranger eliminates 29 traditional car parts--no need for sparkplugs or oil filters. It can travel up to 80 miles per hour, and has a rechargeable battery that lasts 100 miles and can be purchased at one-tenth the cost of the lithium battery found in hybrid cars. The vehicle is a money-saver all around: Albertson estimates the retail value would be about $20,000.

At one point he was working with the Ford Ranger plant in St. Paul, Minn., on possible plans to make the truck, but they never came to fruition: Ford closed the plant in 2011. While he'd like to see the vehicle hit the market within the next three years or so and has several interested buyers, Albertson continues to deal with roadblocks presented by politicians and private industries, he said.

"Electric is the future--don't you want to get with the times?" Albertson said. "The table is turning. They can't fight it any longer--it's here."

Albertson works and lives out of his shop near Alma, and he's not the only inventor on the premises. His wife of nearly 50 years, Patricia Albertson, holds patents for a refrigerated cooler, gluestick dispenser, and a spray bottle.

"She put up with me all these years," Albertson said.

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