Demolition man, Inventor’s toy teaches engineering

Alisha Wyman

While other children rode their bikes, David Curtis attached wings to his. Although this early invention failed to get off the ground, Curtis, now 38, has come a long way, and is confident his business, the American Toy & Invention Corporation, is on its way to success.”I’ve put four years of my life on hold to make this company happen,” said Curtis. “I’m going get rich and become a ski bum.”He now has several products on the market, such as an imploding toy building, a roofing screw, a home wind power generator and energy producing interstate dividers. Ideas come easy to him, Curtis said.”If I sit down without a job to do, I can invent something every 15 minutes,” he said. “It’s just the nature of my mind.”Four years ago, Curtis was working as a roofing contractor in Truckee. One evening he watched a show on the Discovery Channel about Controlled Demolition Incorporated, a company that demolishes buildings.”I said to myself, ‘someone needs to build a toy like that,'” he said. Shortly after, Curtis decided it should be him.The result was a toy he named “Controlled Demolition” (now “Advanced Engineering”). With small plastic tubes and plates, a child can construct an eight-story building. The entertainment begins after it’s complete.”Knocking it down is really something fun to do at the end, instead of having to take it apart like Legos,” Curtis said.The toy includes a detonator called a plunger box, which pulls a plate at the base of the building out from under it. As a plate moves, the tubes fall in holes in the base, and the building implodes.After Sept. 11, the idea stalled when Curtis and Kmart decided not to continue with their $38 million deal.”We didn’t want to offend anyone,” Curtis said. He changed the toy’s name and waited to release it until recently.”Right now I feel like Doc in Back to the Future,” Curtis said. “Everything goes into (the business). Now I understand why inventors look like Doc.”One of Curtis’s first innovations was a screw for metal roofs he calls Snow Tight Fasteners. The head of the screw is flat and allows snow to easily pass over it, he said. Its design 1protects the rubber washer from sun and weather damage, and metal grooves lock the screw in place.Another of Curtis’s inventions might seem less practical, but he says it will change the world. By adding small wind turbines to tops of cement barriers dividing the interstates, Curtis created a machine that captures wind from passing vehicles and turns it into electricity.”Every time you go somewhere, you’re creating energy,” he said. Production of electricity would eventually pay the cost of maintaining the freeway, which would free tax money for other investments, he said.The Nevada senators and legislators, the Nevada Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration gave their support with the condition of future testing, he said.Another inventor, Brian Eissler and Curtis’s father, Marshall Curtis, have joined him to run the American Toy & Invention Corp. Together they discuss new inventions, build prototypes and seek manufacturers.The most difficult task is finding investors, Curtis said. The lack of funding in Truckee forced him to move his office to Reno six months ago.While he will still have an office there or possibly in Las Vegas, he plans to move to back to Truckee in three months, where he wants to start Santa’s Secret Workshop, North Pole II. There, he will develop his projects.”I can see it now, with the lights blinking,” he said. “I have a vivid imagination.”Curtis has other inventions in the works. He logs possible inventions in a thick folder he has had since he was young-inspiration to pursue his ideas to fruition.”I just really wanted to share my products with the world,” he said.David Curtis can be contacted at (775) 787-8082. For more information about the American Toy & Invention Corporation, see the Web site at

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