The Light Bulb Icon and a Utility Giant Celebrate Invention
It’s May and the level of excitement at the Edison Innovation Foundation is nearing its annual peak; because this is the month for the grand awards in our annual Thomas Edison Pitch Contest. In this our 9th straight year, we have reviewed numerous entries from all over the United States, and winnowed it down to 9 finalists, three each in the elementary, middle and high school divisions. Finalists will compete in a 2-3 minute team pitch to determine the final order of awards.
What makes this year doubly blessed is our new partnership with Public Service Electric & Gas [PSE&G] Foundation. PSE&G is New Jersey’s largest electric and gas utility, with an impeccable national reputation for customer service reliability; clean power generation and a pioneer in applying photovoltaic installations on utility poles, commercial properties and rehabilitated brownfield sites.
PSE&G has the creative spirit that ties right in with the theme of the pitch contest. They have long been a booster of STEM educational programs throughout their service territories, and we are proud to have them associated with this Thomas Edison program. Students will even get the chance to be judged by one of their principal Technical Engineers, Dawn Shilkoski!
This year’s awards ceremony will take place “under the big top” at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park, the site of the legendary inventor’s West Orange works where Edison combined invention and entrepreneurship to create the modern world of R&D labs, team-based problem solving, and tied it to our ever expanding concept of technology driven economic progress.
Edison is the great grandfather of modern STEM / STEAM thinking, the educational paradigm taught in schools all over the world. Our finalists will have mimicked the Edison style of thinking throughout their journey from raw idea to final design.
Edison on solar energy – “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that. I wish I had more years left.”
On May 2, 2019, Thomas Alva Edison was officially designated State Inventor! Just goes to show, you should never underestimate the persuasive power of young ladies and their teacher. 4 years ago, Sarah Marion and her 4th grade students Rory, Zoe, Dylan and Emma at Stony Brook Elementary School in Hopewell, researched the great inventor and wrote a letter to the NJ legislature about recognizing the world’s greatest inventor. They fought to make it a law every since and even got Senator Shirley K. Turner to sponsor the legislation which has now become law. The Edison Innovation Foundation is so proud to have had a hand in this impressive example of perseverance and passion that this group has set!
the kids present the idea of the bill to make Thomas Edison the “State
Inventor” to you? What about that presentation convinced you to take action?
During our Social Studies unit on New Jersey
Government, my students had learned all about the state symbols of New Jersey
and were assigned a project to research and come up with a new state symbol.
They had to have solid reasoning as to why this should be a symbol and present
it to the class with the goal of persuading them that it should become a
symbol. The girls put together a great presentation with facts to support why
Thomas Edison should become our State Inventor. I saw tremendous possibility
within this idea and after speaking with the girls, we did a bit more research
and wrote a letter to Senator Turner expressing our thoughts. She quickly wrote
back and told us that she was sponsoring our bill had requested that a bill be
drafted to name Thomas Edison as New Jersey’s State Inventor! We were over the
that the Committee & Senate have voted for the bill, what do you think the
effects of making Edison the “NJ State Inventor” will be?
I think that a lot more attention will be on
all of Thomas Edison’s accomplishments; not only for New Jersey, but also for
the world. He was such an incredible inventor who drastically changed the lives
of every single person living today. I also hope that when the public hears
that a group of 4th graders (now 8th graders) was behind this becoming law,
that everyone will realize the importance of their voice. Stand up for what you
believe in and don’t let anybody prevent you from achieving something great!
was your favorite part about the process of creating this bill?
My favorite part about creating this bill has
been working side by side with the girls. They have never given up hope that we
can make this happen, even after years went by. This process has truly proven
that anything is possible and that every single person’s voice matters, no
matter their age. My hope is that other students in Hopewell Valley, and
hopefully the entire state will soon realize what can be accomplished when you
don’t give up! We have met so many interesting people and government officials
along the way that have motivated us and helped us to persevere. Aside from
Senator Turner, John Keegan has been one of our biggest supporters since day
one. When we were invited to Thomas Edison’s lab and awarded “The Tommy”, we
felt like superstars! Who knew that it would take more than three years after
that event to get this bill passed through both houses.
were the major challenges you faced when pitching this bill?
The biggest challenge we faced was overcoming
disappointment. After testifying at committee meetings we were always filled
with so much hope that this would be the year that it would pass! We became
filled with disappointment when sessions would end and we had to start all over
again. Luckily, we didn’t let it keep us down for long! We got right back to
writing letters and sending emails to those who could help us get this on
voting agendas again.
can other students & teachers learn from this achievement?
Throughout this entire process, my hope has
always been that students will realize how important their opinions are and
also realize how essential it is to fulfill their civic duty by standing up for
what they believe in. As educators, instilling the belief in students that they
can accomplish anything at a young age will boost their confidence and help set
them on a path for success. I believe in teaching my students the value of
being a good person and this achievement can help them see the good that others
are doing and make them want to work toward their goals as well.
Where are the students that worked with you to create this bill now?
Rory, Emma, Zoe, and Dylan are now in 8th
grade! It is hard to believe that they will be entering high school next year.
They are still excellent students and involved in many different activities.
Aside from being great students, each one has a heart of gold and I feel so
honored to have been a part of their educational journey and lives.
your favorite Thomas Edison invention and why?
My favorite Thomas Edison invention would have
to be the incandescent light bulb. Every year we take our 4th graders on a
field trip to the State House and they learn that Edison’s Electric Light
Company installed the brass chandelier with 66 light bulbs that is hanging in
the Assembly Chamber. All of my students have background knowledge of our
current bill, so seeing their faces “light” up when they see something that his
company actually installed is really awesome.
have anything else to add, that you want people to know?
Never, ever, ever give up! I repeat this phrase to all of my students
endlessly throughout each school year. I want them to remember it as they move
on from 4th grade and apply it to their everyday lives. Rory, Emma, Zoe, and
Dylan demonstrated this day in and day out throughout this entire process.
Throughout my teaching career, I have never seen a group of students work so
hard and persevere for so long in something that they believe in. I encourage
every single child and adult to stand up for what they believe in and chase
their dreams. You are never too young or too old to achieve something great!
Maria Montessori, born in 1870, was the
first woman in Italy to receive a medical degree. She initially worked in the
fields of psychiatry, education and anthropology, eventually concentrating on
education in 1907. She was truly a liberated woman, who supposedly even
entertained the thought of becoming an engineer.
Her Montessori method of education stressed the development of a child’s own initiative and natural abilities–especially through practical play, and a hands-on, self-paced approach to learning; aimed at inspiring creativity and imagination, along with independent thinking [OMG….sounds like today’s STEM!]. This educational paradigm, after a tenuous start and the tumult of World War I, eventually spread over the globe.
Dr. Montessori made her first visit to the
United States for a brief lecture tour in 1912. She was given an enthusiastic
welcome, including a reception at the White House. She gave her first lecture
at Carnegie Hall to overflowing crowds, and stayed at the home of Thomas
Edison, who admired her work. In addition, other admirers were Alexander
Graham Bell, Helen Keller, Henry Ford, Woodrow Wilson and Mahatma Gandhi.
Today, estimates vary widely, but as many as 8,000 Montessori schools flourish
in the United States.
Edison was quoted as saying … ”I like the Montessori method. It teaches through play. It makes learning a pleasure. It follows the natural instincts of the human being … The present system casts the brain into a mold. It does not encourage original thought or reasoning.” This meshes well with Edison’s many career pronouncements about changing the current form of American education to make it more practical. It is worthwhile to note that early markets that Edison envisioned for his phonograph and motion pictures were school classrooms.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Co-founders of Google, have said
that Montessori education allowed them to think for themselves. They credit
Montessori with allowing them to question what was going on around them and to
discover the answers for themselves. Former Montessori students, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, and Will Wright, inventor of “The Sims” video game series, also
credit Montessori for allowing them to ask questions, discover, and learn on
their own terms.
Thomas Edison said, “The world owes nothing
to any man, but every man owes something to the world.”
On November 8th, John Keegan, President and CEO of the Edison Innovation Foundation will give a TEDx talk at NJIT, entitled “There’s a better way to do it. Find it”.
Hi….Tom Edison here. Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. Listen to John Keegan!
The Edison spirit, captured in the quote above, is a timely message for people of all ages. Here are some key points Keegan will touch upon:
Edison is not just an historical footnote, but totally relevant to our world today.
His lifetime legacy of accomplishments in totality accounts for $8-12 trillion in our current worldwide annual economy of $80 trillion.
His accomplishments and creation of whole new industries currently accounts for one in four jobs on the planet.
His creation of R&D labs provides the limitless team-based innovation fuel that inspires our self-renewing cornucopia of technology driven progress.
He is the world poster child for a “fail your way to success” philosophy of life; and a champion of life-long learning.
Students today study him as they learn and practice STEM / STEAM in school. Edison is the great grand-daddy of this paradigm.
Life Magazine, in honor of Edison’s cumulative inventive achievements, proclaimed him a powerful force for good, and worthy of the title, “Man of the Millennium”; a title never before attributed to any other human….the man of the last 1,000 years!
You can learn more about this great man. Stay tuned for announcements about this talk and its appearance on You Tube.