Thomas Edison Loves Young Inventors

Nothing would please Edison more than to see students interested in serious invention activities; and so with the completion of the Edison Innovation Foundation’s 5th annual alternate technology competition, the great inventor would be most happy.

Traditionally a NJ event, this year the Foundation expanded the competition to the national level. Nine (9) states were represented by sixty-four (64) teams vying for top honors. A key aspect of the competition-it was done totally virtually. The teams fulfilled all requirements of the competition via computer-even submitting their presentation videos via email to be judged by twelve members of the engineering, academic, business, and consulting community. Here are the winners, by division, state, and team name!

High School Division

  • 1st Place: High Point Regional HS, New Jersey, (Purple Dragons-for a ski lift energy solution)
  • 2nd Place: New Providence HS, New Jersey, (Zhang Plus One-for a parabolic boiler)
  • 3rd Place: Morris Knolls HS, New Jersey, (ZFN2 Team 1-for an electric car charged through a photovoltaic array)

Middle School Division

  • 1st Place: Banks Trail MS, South Carolina, (The Chargerz-for a wireless cell phone solar charger that could be used during catastrophic events, or in locations without electricity)
  • 2nd Place: Howell MS North, New Jersey, (Artificial Intelligence-for a sun grill)
  • 3rd Place: Linwood MS, New Jersey, (Team 4-for an improved flight data recorder)

Honorable Mentions

  • Albert Bridge Elementary School, Vermont, (The Edisons-for a wind powered phone charger)
  • Chaney STEM Campus, Ohio, (Thomas Friends-for a sustainable swimming pool)

Great effort everyone! Shown below are several selected photos of the winners.

High School Third Place Winners

High School Third Place Winners

Middle School First Place Winners

Middle School First Place Winners

Teachers, school principals, students out there … participate in next year’s national competition. Join in the fun and competitive spirit.

Thomas Edison on Time MagazineThomas Edison said, “I find out what the world needs. Then I go ahead and try to invent it.”

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Edison, Einstein on Orville Wright

Let’s rejoin our two intrepid friends Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison up in the cloud, and listen in to their conversation about the Wright Brothers. Then check out our contest at the end of the blog.

Albert Einstein (AE)
Good Morning Thomas. Say, you met that Orville Wright fellow didn’t you?

Thomas Edison (TE)
Sure did-back in 1913 as I remember, came out to my West Orange Labs, a couple of weeks before Christmas. Why do you ask?

December 18, 1913: Visit of Orville Wright to Edison’s West Orange Labs.  Front row l. to r. Mina Edison, daughter Madeleine, Orville Wright (light-colored suit), Thomas Edison, [unknown], John Sloane –husband of Madeleine.

December 18, 1913: Visit of Orville Wright to Edison’s West Orange Labs.
Front row l. to r. Mina Edison, daughter Madeleine, Orville Wright (light-colored suit), Thomas Edison, [unknown], John Sloane –husband of Madeleine.

AE
Lot of fanfare about a new book about the Wright brothers, just came out, that McCullough writer fellow wrote the book-good reviews I hear.

TE
Hey, isn’t that the fellow who wrote about you Albert?

AE
Yes, it is! Well, I almost forgot about that.

TE
Orville and his brother Wilber [who died young] did quite a nice job with making the airplane a practical device. Lots of controversy about whether they were first or not, but if they did not provide the proper controls for the wings, no one would be flying today. No small problem they solved in 1903, and then the interest overtook the whole world.

Orville being launched for an early flight in 1902. Brother Wilber and a friend are at each wingtip.

Orville being launched for an early flight in 1902. Brother Wilber and a friend are at each wingtip.

AE
What reminds me of you Tom, is how they kept improving and refining their flying machine. Passion is what they had for their invention, like you did for yours.

TE
If you don’t have passion, there is no need to be in the inventing business. I must say though I wondered how they made a connection between their other activities like an ongoing bicycle shop and powered flight; but then again inspiration can come from a variety of circumstances. Did I mention he was an Ohio boy like me? He came from Dayton, while I came from up north in Milan, near Lake Erie.

AE
Sounds like those Midwest strong work values. Just like Henry Ford too!

TE
That could very well be. Another thing I did not mention. When Orville was out visiting me he had quite a good time talking with my daughter Madeleine’s husband, John Sloane, who has an aeronautical business down in Newark. The airport there is becoming quite well known and used.

AE
Thomas, consider how much change has come during our lives. Once the train was the way to travel– and then Henry brings the automobile, and you the electric vehicle; and along comes Orville and folks are no longer on the road, but in the air. Such change!

TE
And 66 years later in 1969, there are footprints on the moon.

AE
Let’s take a walk. I have been doing some of those Smoogle….no Google…….computer searches, and Mr. Orville Wright lives not far from us up here in the cloud. Maybe he and his brother would like to do a little inventing with us. What do you think?

TE
Al…a splendid idea!

AE
Who knows….maybe a plane flight is in our future?

TE
Perhaps I should bring along my motion picture camera?

Einstein, Edison on Orville Wright

A Contest for our readers!

Win a gift of $100 for first place; $50 second; $25 third. Send us some words, say 150-250, as to which invention had the most impact on the world … the light bulb; the airplane; or theory of relativity. Contest closes on June 15, 2015 at 5:00 pm. Email info@thomasedison.org to enter.

Thomas Edison on Time MagazineThomas Edison said, “If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves …”

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Louis Latimer: Black Inventor and Thomas Edison Associate

Lewis Howard Latimer (1848-1928)

Lewis Howard Latimer (1848-1928)

Born the son of a freed slave, Lewis Howard Latimer (1848-1928) is an outstanding role model for young folks-how to overcome whatever odds against success and succeed. In his 80 years he was an inventor, patent expert, draftsman, engineer, author, poet, and musician.

During the Civil War he joined the U.S. Navy, serving aboard a side wheel gunboat, the U.S.S. Massasoit, until the war’s end in 1865. Returning home, he soon taught himself mechanical drawing, subsequently holding a job in this capacity, preparing formal drawings submitted to the U.S. Patent Office. He helped prepare the drawings for Alexander Graham Bell’s original telephone patent.

Later, in 1880, he would work for Hiram Maxim, a prolific inventor and contemporary of Bell and Edison, who like Edison was working on electric lighting. While with Maxim, Latimer patented a process for making carbon filaments for bulbs, and taught workers to make the filaments. This knowledge soon mushroomed into Latimer setting up and consulting in Maxim factories here and abroad.

In 1884, Latimer was named a draftsman-engineer in Edison’s New York operations; and in 1889 as an expert electrical engineer, wrote a highly regarded technical book of its time, “Incandescent Electric Lighting—A Practical Description of the Edison System”. In that same year, he penned a book of poetry, celebrating his life-long love of creative writing. Latimer also served as an expert witness for Edison, testifying on behalf of the great inventor in many court cases challenging Edison’s electrical system.

Diagram of Latimer’s bulb (1883) and acclaimed book (1889)

Diagram of Latimer’s bulb (1883) and acclaimed book (1889)

By 1892, Latimer was involved in consulting roles with General Electric, Westinghouse, and finally a prestigious New York engineering/patent law firm-eventually retiring from that firm in 1924 at the age of 75. While at the law firm, the “Edison Pioneers” was formed, a group dedicated to keeping alive the ideals and aims of Thomas Edison. Latimer was one of the original members.

Today, Latimer is considered one of the top ten black inventors, up there in stature with the great George Washington Carver who held many patents. Latimer was a great man, and patriot … a role model for all students … a man who never stopped learning and improving himself.

Thomas Edison on Time MagazineThomas Edison said …  “I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others… I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent…”

Time ® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.

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