Cell Phone Inventor at U of R's Hajim Design Day

Apr 28, 2016

Martin Cooper with his 1973 invention
Credit Alex Crichton

The man who invented the cell phone says he expected his idea would catch on someday, but he never expected to see what's happening now.

Martin Cooper visited the University of Rochester during the annual Hajim Design Day, where senior engineering students put their inventions and devices on display.

Cooper says the fundamental idea behind cellular telephony came from Bell Laboratories in 1947. 

And its parent company AT&T decided to make car telephones. 

Cooper was working for Motorola at the time, and they believed people would rather have the freedom to make a call anywhere and anytime, and that meant a hand-held portable  phone.

He says that first phone call was serendipitous.

"I just thought maybe I'll try to call my counterpart at A T & T., Dr. Joel Engle, and I did that and amazingly he answered the phone," he says.

Cooper feels the possibilities with this technology are endless.

"We never could have anticipated that you would have in the phone a powerful supercomputer and a digital camera, large scale integrated circuits, internet, none of those things existed in 1973," he says.

During Hajim Design Day, around 70 teams of students gathered to put on display their inventions and devices that offer real-world solutions for the companies and institutions they have partnered with.

Michelle Relin is a senior majoring in optical engineering. 

Student inventors Michelle Relin and Haotain Jiang

Her team used Google glass to design a vision aid for those with macular degeneration.

"We made a telescope, a little optical system, that you put in front of the Google glass camera, and it magnifies that, so hopefully when they perform their daily activities they'll be able to see better," she says.

Professor of optics at the U of R, Dr. Wayne Knox says some of these student projects will go and turn into small companies.

Here's Yuting Yang, a senior mechanical engineering student, and her team's invention: