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  • Gloria Hoffner

Black History Month spotlight on a 'super' inventor

African American inventor

Lonnie Johnson's resume boasts work with the US Air Force and NASA including work on the Galileo Jupiter probe and Mars Observer project, a nomination for astronaut training and more than 40 patents, but it's for a squirt gun that he's best known. He created a novelty water gun powered by air pressure in 1982 when he conducted an experiment at home on a heat pump that used water instead of Freon. This experimentation, which resulted in Johnson shooting a stream of water across his bathroom into the tub, led directly to the development of the Power Drencher, the precursor to the Super Soaker released in 1989. Materials – Hot day and residents with Super Soakers. Result - When the user then operates a piston-like trigger, the pressurized air ejects water from a separate water tank, resulting in a strong stream of water that can reach as far as 50 feet.

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