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Perseverance and Prototypes - "There were a lot of false starts, and a lot of reasons to give up."

Updated: Jan 8, 2021

When his heat-pump prototype shot a stream of water across the room, Lonnie Johnson realized the technology could create a super-powered water gun. Getting the toy to market, however, would take years.

Linda Hosler: Taking a great idea from concept to market can require years of hard work and unwavering persistence. This is Linda Hosler from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. I recently interviewed Lonnie Johnson, an inventor and engineer, originally from Mobile, Alabama. His journey as an inventor began in high school, when he designed and built his own robot, entered it in a regional science fair, and won first place. Since then he has received more than 100 patents for inventions that include new types of engines, batteries, and spacecraft. In fact, it was his work at NASA that inspired his most famous commercial success in the Super Soaker®—a line of toy water guns. Here is a bit of our conversation.

Linda Hosler: So where did it all start? I like to think of inventors as having an origin story, like a superhero. Is there a moment that defines you when you turned into an inventor?

Lonnie Johnson: A moment that defined me, when I turned into an inventor? I have been inventing and tinkering with things and have always, as far back as I can remember, I've been curious about how things worked and I used to take my toys apart...Read Full Article at

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