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Groundbreaking ideas rarely make money without patience, passion and relentlessness. "I've been a pain in the butt, believe me," said Michael Wielgat, a Chicago firefighter and inventor of the "Hero Pipe."

Four years and tens of thousands of dollars ago, Wielgat began working on a device that enables fire crews to fight flames in high-rises from one level below. Hero Pipe is now drawing interest from the Department of Homeland Security, and last week Wielgat was recognized as a visionary during the 8th annual Chicago Innovation Awards.

Innovation means squat without sweat