Considering he was raised in Mobile, Alabama during the 1960’s, Lonnie Johnson was taught that black men weren’t meant to succeed. He, however, worked to prove them wrong. With his natural talent, he went on to work for NASA and develop the first stealth bomber than was used in the US military. However, the invention that allowed him wealth and influence was shocking: he invented the Super Soaker.
He recently submitted a personal article to BBC news where he explained the process that led him to developing this influential children’s toy.
He explained that early in his life, he liked to tinker and experiment with objects, much as an engineer would. His first experience with such was when his dad gave him a simple lesson on the basics of electricity. He continued working on such products until he gained the reputation of “the Professor” among the neighborhood kids.
One of the first developments of his tinkerings was a basic go-kart. It was made from salvaged engine parts and was controlled by a piece of string the children on the inside of the cart held.
Johnson had multiple encounters with law enforcement who were skeptical of his pass-time. He explained to them, however, that he was genuinely interested in the engineering and development of technology. For example, he’d salvage metals that were required to build a rudimentary robot at a young age! If police officers were skeptical, they were often satisfied and entertained by the result of his work.
Eventually, after high school, he went on to receive a mechanical engineering degree from Tuskegee, a historical black college. In addition, he received a Masters in nuclear engineering.
He eventually went on to achieve greatly throughout many different engineering competitions where he went up against some of the most renown scientific minds in the country. Here, he found inspiration and national fame among the engineering community.
Over time, he went on to develop many great things. The most well known product, however, was his toy water pistol that he titled the Super Soaker. He found that this product was a very good ice breaker at social events. He would meet people and then he would describe to them the basic water toy that he was working on.