Lonnie Johnson, Inventor of Super Soaker, Discusses Career and Controlling Market at ‘Hope Global Forum’

One of the great things about who attends the HOPE Global Forum is the surprise meetings of some great minds. So, with no pun intended, a true “rocket” scientist was present and surprised many by what he actually does. Lonnie Johnson is the African-American engineer and inventor of the Super Soaker water gun, which has been among the world’s bestselling toys every year since its release in 1990. He took time to discuss the importance of science, technology, market control and what’s needed for the next generation.

Mr. Johnson talked about the challenges today’s technology that includes robotics, artificial intelligence and stem programs. It’s no coincidence that China has now exceeded in terms of venture capital investments in new businesses, and they have invested more money into artificial intelligence than the U.S.

It’s a call to action because if we’re going to remain competitive we need to wake up and put the struggle to the metal and start moving forward in a more drastic way.”

Still, he’s optimistic in believing that circumventing this issue means understanding the whole process of economic development, taking control of your future and applying resources. He was happy to relate the fact that NASA has taken an initiative and involvement with Clark Atlanta University for a small business development initiative that will result in NASA contracting and providing a product for NASA. Mr. Johnson’s interest came about through some of the energy technology that I’m developing that NASA he has an interest in.

The Mobile, Alabama native and alumnus of Tuskegee University is passionate in his promoting the virtues of getting kids involved with science and technology at an early age, even before or by the time they reached elementary school. Taking the talent, skills and interests all the way through high school will lead those kids to robotics competitions, which can allow them to build things and solve problems. This becomes a whole new world. One that Mr. Johnson has foreseen and applied his own interest towards others by teaming with the 100 Black Men of Atlanta. They go into the community and schools, introducing and promoting the programs that will get them involved.

What about the Super Soaker water gun? It’s an invention that’s been around so long, we take for granted because it has had longevity and success but how many knew it was an African-American that was responsible for this phenomenon? Mr. Johnson tells how he literally invented it in his bathroom one night and for him, it was the start of not only a product, but the control of how it got to market and stay there was ingrained into his game plan.

His story is not necessarily about the Super Soaker, but about what you can actually achieve if you control your direction sand destiny. Mr. Johnson emphasizes with technology it’s not too different to achieve this.

Technology knows no loyalty. If you can learn it, use it and create something unique that’s useful, you can control what happens to it and where it goes. I have this philosophy of taking control of your destiny by creating your own thing as opposed to waiting on someone to open the door for you.”

– Joseph Walker, III

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