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Lonnie Johnson      

Inventor, Innovator & Former NASA Nuclear Engineer; Creator of the Super Soaker Water Gun & Nerf

Dr. Lonnie Johnson is the Founder and President of Johnson Research and Development, three technology related spin off companies as well as a non profit organization dedicated to educating disadvantaged youth in STEM. Dr. Johnson is a prolific inventor and holds over 150 patents. He began “tinkering” as a young child and his insatiable curiosity and imagination inspired him to create, experiment and invent.

One day when he was in high school, he was making rocket fuel on the stove in the kitchen of his home. When the fuel caught on fire and the flames went shooting up to the ceiling, he knew his experimenting days would be over as soon as his parents came home. Amazingly, his parents said to him, “Son, you are going to have to take your experiments outside for now on!” Those simple words of wisdom and encouragement inspired him to keep pursuing his dreams.

His first invention, “Linex”, a high school project, was a remote controlled robot, which he built and created from scrap metal he found in a junk yard. Linex won first place in a state wide competition at the University of Alabama and Dr. Johnson was the first African American to ever achieve such an honor.

Dr. Johnson attended Tuskegee University on a Math scholarship and graduated with distinction with a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering. Two years later, he earned a Master’s in Nuclear Engineering and decades later, was bestowed an honorary doctorate in Science from Tuskegee University. He served in the U.S. Air Force where he analyzed NASA space systems and worked on the Stealth Bomber Program. At the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), he helped develop some of the nation’s most advanced technology in the Galileo mission to Jupiter, the Mars Observer Project and the Cassini Mission to Saturn.

He has received numerous honors including two Air Force Commendation Medals, an Air Force Achievement Medal, NASA awards, The Trumpet Award, Lifetime Achievement Awards, Engineering Hall of Fame Award, Inventor’s Hall of Fame Award and Business of the Year Award just to name a few.

A bona fide rocket scientist, Dr. Johnson is happiest when he is inventing. When he is not working on his innovative heat engine (which converts heat into electricity), he is working on his advanced battery technology or his revolutionary water condenser or any number of inventions he has come up with. In his spare time, he advocates for inner city youth. He has never forgotten what his parents told him that day in the kitchen and continues to inspire children through STEM with his non-profit, Johnson STEM Activity Center.

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