Press absolution from Western Carolina University:
CULLOWHEE – Lonnie Johnson isn’t abiding how or why he got absorbed in science. He aloof knows it’s been a allotment of his activity for as continued as he can remember.
From the time he was a youngster in Mobile, Alabama, Johnson would booty toys afar aloof to see what was inside. He additionally had a allure with architecture things, which has culminated in him actuality the architect and buyer of Atlanta-based Johnson Research and Development Co., a technology development company, forth with aftereffect companies Excellatron Solid Accompaniment LLC and Johnson Electro-Mechanical Systems.
He additionally is the buyer of added than 100 patents, with added than 20 others pending. His best acclaimed apparatus was that of the SuperSoaker baptize gun about 30 years ago. Johnson, 68, will be a bedfellow apostle in Cullowhee on Monday, Feb. 19, as Western Carolina University celebrates Engineers Week. His presentation will activate at 6 p.m. in the A.K. Hinds University Center’s Grandroom.
“I met Lonnie through FIRST Robotics in Georgia,” said Jeff Ray, administrator of WCU’s College of Engineering and Technology. “He is a absurd afflatus to abounding beginning adolescent engineers. While he is accepted as the artist of the SuperSoaker, his contributions to accurate and engineering breakthroughs accept and abide to impress.”
As a child, Johnson said he played with architecture toys like Erector sets and Tinker Toys. He would additionally accomplish things out of alone items, like demography abandoned spools from his mother’s bed-making apparatus and application them as auto to accomplish cars. From there he began baby projects like architecture go-carts.
Looking for article added challenging, Johnson represented all-African-American Williamson High School in the 1968 Alabama science fair. As the alone African-American participant, Johnson entered a apprentice he congenital alleged Linex, which won aboriginal place.
“I bethink thinking, it’s activity to booty a absolutely continued time to body this, but it’s activity to be alarming back I get it done,” Johnson said. “He was absolutely alien controlled. I had a transmitter and a receiver so I could address signals and command him. He could hinge on his abject and he had auto so he could move around. He had accoutrements that had all of the joints that a animal arm had and he had little grabbers so he could aces up stuff.
“In reality, aloof authoritative him assignment at all and accepting all those things move was a huge achievement in itself. The auto and swiveling on his abject acclimated electric motors, but his accoutrements acclimated aeroembolism air cylinders to move the joints.”
Johnson accustomed a algebraic scholarship to Tuskegee University, but it didn’t booty him continued to apprehend he was destined to be an engineer. After a semester, he afflicted his above to automated engineering. Johnson accustomed his bachelor’s and master’s in nuclear engineering from Tuskegee.
After graduating, Johnson abutting the Air Force and formed on the stealth adviser program. He after formed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab with the nuclear ability antecedent for the Galileo mission to Jupiter.
After abiding to the Air Force in 1982, Johnson was alive on a longtime claimed project, an environmentally affable calefaction pump that would use baptize instead of Freon. While experimenting with altered nozzles, he noticed a high-pressure beck advancing out of the nozzles, and anon a ablaze went off.
“I anticipation a high-pressure baptize gun would absolutely be neat, so I chock-full alive on the calefaction pump and started designing a high-performance baptize gun,” Johnson said.
He accustomed a apparent for the gun in 1986. He eventually awash the gun, initially alleged the “Power Drencher,” to Larami Corporation in 1989. It wasn’t until some added tinkering and a name change to “SuperSoaker” that it became a hit. The SuperSoaker topped $200 actor in sales in 1991.
Now beneath Hasbro, which purchased Larami, the SuperSoaker sales accept about accomplished $1 billion and it is annually ranked amid the world’s top 20 acknowledged toys.
“I did not anticipate it to be a huge success that it was,” Johnson said. “When I did that, my abstraction was to accomplish abundant assets that I could abutment myself while I went off to be a austere inventor.”
After SuperSoaker’s success, Johnson wondered if “lightning could bang in the aforementioned abode twice.” So he tinkered with the “Nerf gun,” which was already on the market. After convalescent that toy’s performance, Johnson active a arrangement with Hasbro and became the baron of all toy guns. “That gave me a lot of confidence,” Johnson said.
His aggregation Johnson Array Technologies Inc. is introducing a new bearing of rechargeable array technology that has the abeyant to accommodate the array industry. By accouterment a antecedent of activity abundant greater than what exists today in a essentially bargain size, this technology will break abounding of the problems accompanying to technology advancement in the future.
Excellatron has developed a thermodynamic activity about-face technology that converts to electrical activity with cogent advantages over another systems.
Johnson additionally is on the lath of admiral for Georgia FIRST robotics. Acceptance from beyond Atlanta appear to his accessories and anatomy teams that body robots for automatic competitions.
In accession to the College of Engineering and Technology, Johnson’s actualization at WCU is sponsored by the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer, Intercultural Affairs, the Office of Student Success, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the College of Education and Allied Professions.
Engineers Anniversary began in 1951, but this is the aboriginal year WCU is adulatory the week, Ray said.
“As the newest accessible engineering affairs in the accompaniment of North Carolina, it is important to authorize traditions acquainted the accent the engineering profession plays in attention the abundance and assurance of the public,” Ray said. “WCU’s College of Engineering and Technology is aflame and appreciative to bless Engineers Anniversary with our students.”
Other contest for Engineers Anniversary include:
Tuesday, Feb. 20: Eaton Corporation in Asheville will host an accessible abode and bulb bout for engineering and engineering technology students.
Wednesday, Feb. 21: Dedication and admirable aperture of the new Engineering MakerCAT Space at 11:30 a.m. in Belk 364. This is WCU’s newest lab committed to accretion accomplishment and architecture prototyping for undergraduate engineering and engineering technology students. It appearance a coffer of 3D printers, Arduino and added cyberbanking components, and accord spaces.
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