SmartBolts Inventor to be Honored at University of Maryland Clark School 2018 Innovation Hall of Fame

Charles H. (Chuck) Popenoe is being honored for inventing SmartBolts®, which remains the only technology of its kind, even after more than 50 years. SmartBolts® fasteners display actual tension with a built- in indicator that changes color as the bolt is tightened or loosened. The indicator design is reusable so it provides value at installation and allows you to monitor preload for the life of the bolt.

After graduating from the University of Maryland in 1957 with a bachelor’s in Aerospace Engineering, Mr. Popenoe worked on missile and rocket design for the US Navy. In 1962, he began a 27-year career at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as an experimental plasma physicist. In this capacity, he invented and developed a universal laboratory data acquisition and control system called MIDAS, which continues to be used throughout NIST and in many world laboratories. Popenoe also designed and constructed the Facility for Spectroradiometric Calibrations (FASCAL), which has been in operation since the 1970s for the calibration of laboratory spectral radiance sources.

After retirement, Mr. Popenoe founded Stress Indicators, Inc. (now known as Industrial Indicators) to sell his SmartBolts®. He developed and marketed a manufacturable model called the DTI SmartBolt which was adopted by General Electric for use in its electrical distribution product line. GE’s ongoing use led to commercial success of the product and growth of the company. The DTI SmartBolt displays actual fastener tension with a red to black scale. If the bolt is loose, the indicator is red, and when the bolt has proper preload, it is black. Today, hundreds of thousands of DTI SmartBolts® are being used by many of the world’s leading companies.

Mr. Popenoe has been granted some 35 U.S. and international patents. His awards include: two Gold Medal Awards from the Inventors Exposition in 1971; the U.S. Department of Commerce Silver Medal Award for Laboratory Automation from NIST in 1975; the Award for Exceptional Creativity from Intellectual Property Owners in 1994; First Place from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Inventors Exposition in 1994; and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Western/Ellington Alumni Association in 2000.

The Innovation Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place on December 6 at 12:00 p.m. in the Innovation Hall of Fame area on the first floor of the Kim Building.

You are also invited to attend the Charles and Helen White Symposium and lunch in the A. James Clark Hall Forum (Room 1101) following the ceremony. Please RSVP for the event by November 26, 2018.

The Innovation Hall of Fame recognizes Clark School alumni, faculty, and associates who have pioneered many of the most significant engineering advances in the past century. Inductees include Robert Briskman, the co-founder of Sirius Satellite Radio; George Laurer, inventor of the Universal Product Code; and Brian Hinman, the innovator behind the Polycom SoundStation conference call device. For more information, visit