Tag Archives: Thomas Alva Edison

9 Things you Didn’t Know About Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison is NJ’s State Inventor

–It’s Official by State Law–

The State of New Jersey now recognizes Thomas Edison as the State’s Inventor. Never underestimate the persuasive power of young ladies and their teacher. 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. Senator Shirley K. Turner sponsored the legislation which, after four years, has now become law. What a great experience for the students in how government works! Read the story below and enjoy some vintage Edison images

 Thomas Edison in his lab with the Edison Effect light bulb, which later became the basis for all electronics!

On May 2, 2019, Thomas Alva Edison was officially designated State Inventor!

How did 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 moon excited.

Now 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!

Thomas Edison’s legendary West Orange Labs employing 10,000 people and shipping products all over the world—the place were R&D labs showed their true value to corporations.

What 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.

What 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.

Edison’s invention factory where prototypes were rapidly made for testing and evaluation-which is what we call makers labs today! Edison is the great grand-daddy of STEM

What 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.

What is 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.

Do you 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!

Thomas Edison and The Pencil

Thomas Edison and the Pencil

The pencil is one of the oldest inventions that is still used today. School kids use them by the millions. Clerks have stored a pencil behind their ear for decades. A librarian would not be caught dead without the handy pencil – and either would Thomas Edison!

The pencil hasn’t changed much since Edison was using it. Once thing that has changed, though, is the lead in our modern day wooden cylinder. It is not lead at all, but a mixture of graphite and clay, in varying proportions to create different types of pencil marks or grades, from soft to hard. For example, the No. 2 pencil is a required for standardardized testing writing so that the grading machines will register it.

Edison writing in his notebook, using one of his special 3 and ½ inch custom pencils.

Many of Edison’s classic notebook entries and his sketches were done in pencil, from which his talented craftsmen were able to fabricate prototype models for testing; and ultimately Edison’s personal approval. One can easily imagine a pencil in Tom’s pocket at the ready to jot down ideas before they were lost. Tom ordered his own special pencils in large quantities from the Eagle Pencil Company [later renamed the Berol Company in 1969]. His pencils were extra soft, rated as a 5B grade, and designed to fit sideways in his vest pocket…about 3 & 1/2 inches long.

“The Pencil” by noted engineer/historian Henry Petroski, is a definitive tome on the history of the pencil-excellent reading for the aficionado. Petroski also mentions Edison’s use of specially made pencils; which of note are still in the artifact archives at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange, NJ. Many great writers also preferred the use of pencils to write their story drafts–greats such at John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Lewis Carol, Virginia Wolf and Carl Sandburg.

Some Deep Dive Pencil Facts

  • An average tree can make 2500 pencils.
  • Pencils can write underwater and also be used in the zero gravity of space.
  • The word ‘pencil’ comes from the Old French ‘pincel’ meaning small paintbrush.
  • Though the exact date is not known for certain, the year 1565 marks the first record of a pencil consisting of a piece of graphite inserted into a wood shaft, making the first ancestor of today’s pencil.
  • In 1662, the first mass-produced pencils were created in Nuremberg, Germany.
  • In March 1858, the first design was issued for a pencil with an eraser on the end.
  • In 1861, Eberhard Faber built the first American mass-production pencil factory in New York City.

Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

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.

Happy Birthday Thomas Edison! (February 11th)

Happy Birthday Thomas Edison! (February 11th)

Born: Milan, Ohio

Occupation: Inventor, entrepreneur, project manager, technology leader, manufacturer, businessman

Accomplishments: 1,093 patents

Major industries impacted:

  • music industry (phonographs)
  • motion pictures (camera to projector)
  • power industry/electric light bulb
  • the West Orange invention factory [R&D labs]

Championed and built [100 years ago]:

  • electric vehicles
  • storage batteries
  • in-garage charging stations
  • revamped the concrete industry with new and larger kiln designs (Portland Cement)
  • major improvements to telephone in collaboration with Alexander Graham Bell

Most Recognized Edison Quote: “I have not failed 10,000 times. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Impact on the World:

  • The technology, inventions and industries that he created still account for $1.5 trillion of U.S. economy [about 10% of U.S. GDP]; about 4 times that for world economy
  • Life Magazine [1996] proclaimed him the “Man of the Millennium”
  • TIME Magazine featured him on cover of special July 2010 history issue-proclaiming him so relevant to our world today
  • Voice of America claims Edison’s technology is responsible for one-fourth of all the world’s jobs
  • He is the human icon for invention and creativity
  • Inspiration to generations of inventors and entrepreneurs

His multi-dimensional, multi-disciplinary method of problem solving has become the taproot for the hands-on, problem solving paradigm known as STEM, now sweeping the nation’s schools

FANS – Acknowledged Edison during their career

  • Steve Jobs, Apple
  • Jeff Bezos, Amazon
  • Google Team, Innovators
  • Bon Jovi, Musician
  • Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO



Inventions Thomas Edison Would Love: Biomass Conversion

Solar energy applications are not just the solar electric panels that convert sunlight to electricity, or the majestic large, spinning, wind turbines we see on the great plains or in offshore clusters. Solar applications also include the use of biomass…..organic materials grown and then processed into fuel or useful products.

Here is what the National Renewable Energy Laboratory [NREL] has to say about biomass applications:

  • Biofuels — Converting biomass into liquid fuels for transportation
  • Biopower — Burning biomass directly, or converting it into gaseous or liquid fuels that burn more efficiently, to generate electricity
  • Bioproducts — Converting biomass into chemicals for making plastics and other products that typically are made from petroleum

Biofuels can be used to supplement our energy sources, replace existing petrochemical energy sources, reduce dependence on foreign sources of energy, and reduce the environmental impact/greenhouse gas emissions of petrochemical energy use.

Every time the price of a barrel of oil goes up a dollar, it costs the Navy $31 million in extra fuel costs. The U.S. military is very interested in alternative fuels — in particular, the wood-based biofuels being researched and produced at the University of Maine. Check out this amazing process.

Professor Clayton Wheeler of U of Maine

Professor Clayton Wheeler of U of Maine

Professor Clayton Wheeler of U of Maine holding a bottle of biofuel made from wood materials. This biofuel can be used as is as a substitute for heating oil or refined a bit more for use as a premium transportation fuel/jet fuel.

It is fascinating to remember Thomas Edison experimented with biomass back in the late 1920s, trying to find common plant materials that could be processed to become a viable substitute for rubber. In his painstaking years of work, Edison and his staff evaluated about 17,000 candidate plant species, to develop a giant cross-bred goldenrod plant that could grow as tall as 12 feet; and whose structure contained about 12% rubber. In 1927, Edison, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone formed the Edison Botanic Research Corporation of Fort Myers. Plants were collected in Florida and throughout the southern United States by field collectors. Plants were grown under controlled conditions in Florida and at Edison’s laboratories in West Orange, New Jersey.

Edison in Fort Myers

Edison in Fort Myers in 1931, along with his giant goldenrod plant, later named after him, Solidago edisoniana.

The plant processing equipment Edison used in his West Orange Chemistry Lab to facilitate the extraction of latex rubber from his goldenrod and other candidate plants.

The plant processing equipment Edison used in his West Orange Chemistry Lab to facilitate the extraction of latex rubber from his goldenrod and other candidate plants.












Editor’s Deep Dive:

Thomas Edison on Time MagazineThomas Edison said … “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.”

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