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  • Nana Oguntola

Lonnie Johnson, Inventor of the water gun

Lonnie George Johnson (born October 6, 1949) is an American inventor and engineer who holds more than 120 patents. He is the inventor of the Super Soaker water gun, which has been among the world's bestselling toys every year since its release. Johnson's father was a World War II veteran and his mother worked as a nurse's aide and they lived in Mobile, Alabama.

As a child, Johnson was very innovative and curious, some of this curiosity coming at the expense of his family's possessions. He reverse engineered his sister's doll to understand how the eyes closed. He also almost burned down his own house while making rocket fuel. In addition, he built his own go-cart out of a lawnmower engine and attached to scraps he found in the junkyard to it. In his teenage years, Johnson attended the all-black Williamson High School in Mobile.

He drew much of his inspiration from George Washington Carver. In 1968, Johnson represented his high school in the Alabama science fair. He was the only black student in the fair at a time when African Americans did not have much presence in science. He created a robot he named "Linex", which was a compressed-air powered robot and took home first prize. Johnson then went on to attend college at Tuskegee University on a math scholarship. When he finished, he earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and a master's degree in Nuclear Engineering from Tuskegee University.

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