Posts belonging to Category All About Tom



Thomas Edison, as Green as St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patricks Day

Happy St. Patricks Day

Every year in the town of West Orange, home to the legendary Thomas Edison, lab and home, (National Historical Park), a vintage 1922 Model T automobile, given to Thomas Edison by Henry Ford, is driven in the large St. Patrick Day parade. This year marks the 66th year of that big parade.

During the parade, a park ranger drive the antique ford, chaperoning the superintendent of the park and family.

 

The Model T bringing up the rear of the parade 

The Model T bringing up the rear of the parade

The rangers celebrate in front of the Model T

The rangers celebrate in front of the Model T

Normally, the Model T is housed in the Edison garage, which is sited on the historic home estate known as Glenmont. Here it is accompanied by two early Detroit Electric vehicles that were driven by his wife Mina, a 1914 Model 47 and a 1911 Model L-1.

Edison’s garage at Glenmont

Edison’s garage at Glenmont

Edison nickel-iron storage batteries

Edison nickel-iron storage batteries

What is so unique about this garage is its history as probably the first to have an electric vehicle charging station integrated within.

Thomas Edison was using an overnight charging station here, way back in 1908, when the building was originally built [using his famous Portland cement formulation].

Today, we think it is quite sophisticated to charge our electric cars in our garages. Old Tom was doing it over 100 years ago.

 

Original Edison electric vehicle charging station in Glenmont garage batteries

Original Edison electric vehicle charging station in Glenmont garage batteries

Environmentally, the garage is “as green as St. Patrick’s Day”. The batteries used in the vehicles are the famous Edison nickel-iron storage batteries, built at his nearby West Orange manufacturing complex, and whose rugged battery technology ushered in what we today refer to as alkaline storage cells.

Currently, the vehicles in the Edison garage are undergoing a conservation process to protect them against aging. The garage itself is being renovated with plans to convert it into a STEM education center for use by the many teachers and students who visit the park every year.

Contributions to help the Edison Innovation Foundation and Charles Edison Fund renovate the garage and cars are always appreciated:

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Thomas 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.”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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Edison Style, Diversity and Invention

Edison Could Work at Google!Project managers know that a good mix of ideas from people with differing backgrounds and cultures goes a long way toward developing exciting and new inventions. It’s the soft side of team-based inventing, and it works. That, and a low flat organizational structure, promotes people interacting both horizontally and vertically-freely gaining new insights from the work of others, and using those insights in unique, sometimes disruptive ways.

The political world talks a great deal about diversity, but for as long as Edison created his project team concept and implemented his invention factory model for R&D [back in the 1870s/80s], diversity has been a staple of life for he and the many other inventors and entrepreneurs that followed—a kind of built-in humanitarian aspect of the inventive life.

Unfortunately, we don’t often think about inventors as humanitarians and champions of diversity. We callously spin them off as boring geeks and narrow-minded people, mocking them in movies [often forgetting that Edison created the movie industry]. These inventive men and women tend to see the world of ideas as totally neutral.

Just go to any technical conference or gathering of entrepreneurs and witness the huge diversity of men and women sharing ideas, technology, and partnering on new ventures. That, dear readers, is diversity in action; and that is what Edison was all about.

Thomas Edison said, “My desire is to do everything within my power to free people from drudgery and create the largest measure of happiness and prosperity.”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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Happy Birthday Thomas Edison: February 11th

Have you noticed how big this STEM educational movement sweeping our nation’s schools has become? We hear talk about students using heads and hands to solve practical problems, working in teams, keeping invention notebooks, learning from failure, thinking in multi-dimensional ways and integrating their subject matter. Students also often participate in numerous Maker Faires held in many countries all year long. Here students showcase their creative and entrepreneurial skills, doing exactly what Thomas Edison did when he coalesced interest [and investment potential] in his new technologies and inventions. Some organizations sponsor “Pitch Contests” to allow participants to pitch their projects to a panel of judges with the hope that a venture capital group ultimately will fund the commercialization of the project.

A recent Maker Faire held in New York City with a popular symbol embodying robotic technology.

A recent Maker Faire held in New York City with a popular symbol embodying robotic technology.

The STEM movement derives directly from Edison’s greatest accomplishment— the invention factory/R&D labs. It was the economic disruptive force of its time, remaining vitally important today. He gave us the keys to the industrial revolution of the late 1880s-the code book, the process, for continuous innovation. STEM and Maker Faires are the first step for tomorrow’s innovators to cut their teeth on the transition from new idea to working prototype.

Students engaged in team-based problem solving and the making of prototypes.

Students engaged in team-based problem solving and the making of prototypes.

All you teachers out there who lead teams of students through STEM activities and projects, you are acting just like Edison did as he managed 30-40 project teams at a time at his famous West Orange Labs. There his teams developed new products like phonographs, electrical equipment and the entire electric utility system, movie production, electric vehicle storage batteries, major advances in the making and use of concrete and many other technological advances and improvements. Think of your leadership of student teams as managing in-school Maker Faires!

Consider what people in the know have said about TAE’s life’s work:

  • The technology, inventions and industries that he created still account for $1.6 trillion [about 10%] of annual U.S. economy, and about $8 trillion of the world economy;
  • Life Magazine [1996] proclaimed him the “Man of the Millennium” i.e. the man of the millennium-1,000 years!;
  • TIME Magazine featured him on the cover of a special July 2010 history issue-proclaiming him so “relevant” to our world today;
  • Edison is the human icon for invention and creativity; and he is an inspiration to generations of inventors and entrepreneurs.

This deserves a big Happy Birthday Thomas Edison on February 11, don’t you think!

Check out these sites for plenty of additional information about Edison:

“Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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