Category Archives: Did You Know?

How Thomas Edison Inspired my Lifelong STEM Career

We knew Harry T. Roman invented lots of things in his engineering career, and that he was a huge Thomas Edison fan. We thought it would be cool to have an inventor, Edison fan and a seasoned writer on staff. That was 13 years ago. Recently, he wrote about his life story and how it ties into Edison. When we found out about this story, we knew we had to share it with our readers!

Harry holds 12 U.S. Patents; and during his career he helped re-design the electric utility system, introducing solar energy, robots, artificial intelligence, batteries and fuel cells, and micro sensors to the industry. Today, he also writes widely about STEM and serves as a docent at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange, NJ. He routinely visits local schools in the area to excite young minds about invention, creativity and of course…Edison. Here is the scoop on our very own Author and Advisor at the Edison Innovation Foundation, Harry T. Roman. Enjoy the read!

Since the 4th grade at Abington Avenue Grammar School in Newark, I have had a special relationship with my boyhood hero, Thomas Edison.

It all started in 1957 when my teacher, Mrs. Wilson, had us write away to a company to learn about what that company does, and then share that information with our classmates. She was handing out names and addresses of companies for us to write away to; and prophetically handed me the address for the Thomas Edison Company (their storage battery division, in the nearby town of Bloomfield). With that long-ago autumn classroom assignment, my life-long interest in invention had begun.

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Thomas Edison Pitch Contest 2020 Winners Announced

On May 13th, the Edison Innovation Foundation gave awards to student team finalists from across the country in the annual Thomas Edison Pitch Contest. It was the 10th year of hosting this competition…and the very first held completely over Zoom due to the stay-at-home orders.

The finalists were chosen from 180 teams in 21 states across the country who entered our contest this year. The student teams from elementary, middle and high school displayed wonderful creativity and inventive spirit for our 10th Anniversary Celebration. We thank our partners Gilbane, New Jersey Manufacturers, and PicoSolutions for supporting this exciting event.

The students pitched their invention ideas to our expert judge panel of financial professionals, Edison experts, and lawyers to win a 3D Printer and more for their schools!

Here is a summary of the how they placed:

Elementary School

1st Place

Team Empower, Lawton Chiles Elementary, Tampa, FL

This team originally wanted to create a robot that picked up trash in the community. However, when Corona hit their home town, they saw an even greater need in their community…the need for the Grab & Go Robot “GiGi.” This robot was made to serve lunches at school grab and go sites to students and families, taking a whole group of volunteers out of the line of fire of infection.

2nd Place

Team 3R, Claude Curtsinger Elementary School, Frisco, TX

This student created a fully functional application to help complete the 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. This application is meant to spread inspiration and information in a simple fashion, right on your phone and hopefully reduce the amount of huge amount of waste created in the world today.

3rd Place

Team Chair Affair, Lincoln K-8, Rochester, MN

This team created a kit to add to the many advantages of a ball chair in the classroom. These balls are proven to help kids focus and get exercise while learning but what if they could also help power their classroom? These kits would generate enough energy to charge students’ electronics and maybe even a light bulb.

Middle School

1st Place

Team Designer Daises, Hockaday School, Dallas, TX

This team created Easy Parking, a sensor and app system that allows people to find parking spots in the community based on their necessities. It streamlines parking for people with special needs, such as the disabled and parents with small children, by shortening the amounts of time they need to park. It was inspired by Thomas Edison’s inventions that simplified life for people like his phonograph and light bulb.

2nd Place

Team Hockabuilders, Hockaday School, Dallas, TX

This team created a new, better kind of air filter for HVAC systems called the Dust-Be-Gone. It is a single-purchase system that saves money, prevents damage to the system, and improves the health of the average person who does not change their air filter regularly. It can be used to help homes, schools, restaurants, and the list goes on!

3rd Place

Team Electric Speed Bump, Sierra Vista, Irvine, CA

This team created a brand new kind of renewable energy to power street lamps…powered by a magnet and gear system in the speed bump! Not only will this save money and help make towns make the switch to renewable energy, but it will also help make streets safer.

High School

1st Place

Team Solar Aqua Tech, Ridgewood High School, Ridgewood, NJ

This team created a water bottle that converts undrinkable to drinkable using only sunlight and oxygen. This cheaper and easily accessible way to sanitize water can help make clean water more accessible to people in need all over the world.

2nd Place

Team RHS 1, Ridgewood High School, Ridgewood, NJ

This team was inspired by one of their classmates with COPD to create a more efficient way to get more out of his inhaler during the stressful commotion of an asthma attack. The Inhale Rite would be an attachment to any inhaler that would help patients achieve the correct dosage out of their inhaler with less force and form.

3rd Place

Team BP-Lytic, Cupertino High School, Cupertino, CA

This student was also inspired by someone close to him with hypertension – his dad! The BP-Lytic is a novel cuffless blood pressure monitoring system that he created to be accessible in a durable watch form. The next Apple Watch or FitBit…but for patients!

For the first time, special awards were been granted to teams that have shown special talents, especially under the hard conditions of virtual learning. These teams impressed us with their:

Most Creative Use of Materials

Team WildWires (The Winsor School, Boston, MA)

Best Use of Recycled Materials

Team ABIS (Alexander Batcho Intermediate School, Manville, NJ)

Team SEPS (Leighton Elementary School, Aurora, OH)

Most Thoughtful Notebooks

Chatham Cougars (Chatham High School, Chatham, NJ)

Most Creative Notebooks

Ocean Blue Crew (LBI Grade School, Ship Bottom, NJ)

Best Teamwork

Team FishScales (The Village Middle School, Houston, TX)

Best “Problem Solvers” 

Daises of the Future (Hockaday School, Dallas, TX)

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Congratulations and great job inventors! 

You have captured the Thomas Edison spirit…..”There’s a better way to do it-find it!”

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How Thomas Edison & His Business Came Back From a Tragic Fire

When: December 9, 1914, 5:15 p.m.
Where: West Orange, NJ
How: Large explosion in Building 41, film inspection area

The great fire of 1914 was triggered by highly combustible nitrate film exploding. Nitrate film at that time was composed of nitrocellulose, also known as gun cotton, a major ingredient of naval munitions…and known to be highly combustible if in an unstable state.

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7 Modern Industries Thomas Edison Created

Throughout his life, Edison created and radically altered not only the lighting industry, but many others that created the American economy. In fact, $8 to 12 billion of the US’s economy today can be tied to Thomas Edison’s innovation. Here are 7 main industries in which he had a major impact:

1. Lighting Industry

One of the earliest catalogs of the Edison Lighting Company, circa 1887

Probably his most iconic invention, the light bulb gave birth to a huge industry for providing lighting across a wide variety of illumination needs. Along with creating the lighting industry, many writers credit Edison’s light bulb with promoting the productive capacity of humanity, increasing nighttime safety, and making evening entertainment events more popular.

2. Music & Radio

Theo Wangemann recording in Edison Laboratory Music Room, circa May 1905 

The ability to record sound and re-play it is one of the world’s great pleasures; and it stems from Edison’s phonograph and the world’s first recording studio at Edison’s West Orange labs. Here, the first great recordings fostered an ever prospering desire to create new sounds and rhythms. Think of the national awards and accolades we bestow upon recording artists every year at show like the Grammys, American Music Awards, and more! Not to mention the booming podcast industry of the modern era.

3. Motion Pictures

Black Maria, the World’s First Recording Studio, built by Thomas Edison in West Orange, NJ

Just a few hundred feet from Edison’s recording studio, the invention of the motion picture camera took place in West Orange, NJ; and about a block away, Edison built the first motion picture studio, unlocking the world’s fascination with movies. We enjoy movies today on large and small screens everywhere. Again, think of the awards we celebrate every year for this highly creative and expanding industry.

4. Battery Industry

The lineup of Edison Storage Batteries, Edison’s more profitable invention!

We hear so much today about the value of battery energy storage for electric vehicles and the storage of solar generated electricity. We can thank Edison for his development of alkaline storage batteries in the early 1900’s for battery technology today. They were not only the back bone of mining helmet lights or his own electrical car in his time, but also for our cell phones, modern electric vehicles, and large scale utility system applications today!

5. Research & Development

Thomas Edison in his West Orange research and design lab, the first of its kind

Probably his most important innovation was Edison’s commercial research labs. This became the basis for R&D labs in every major company in the and served as the model for the network of national labs which drive our America’s science and engineering legacy. In 2019, America spent about $550 billion on organized research in all sectors of the economy!

6. Electric Power Industry

Thomas Edison exhibiting in his hand a replica of his first successful incandescent lamp which gave 16 candlepower of illumination, circa October 1929

Our entire electrical energy system is based on the model Edison demonstrated  in 1882 at Central Station in New York City. Improved over the years and converted from DC to AC, this industry provides the power for our homes, industrial practices, internet connection, and keeps our cell phones and other hand-held devices charged.

7. Electronic Devices

The first “electronic” patent circa 1883

Did you know that Edison filed the first “electronic” patent in 1883? It was a phenomenon that Edison observed in 1875 and refined later while he trying to improve the incandescent lamp. They call it the “Edison Effect.” This discovery was applied to modern electronics like transistors, microchips, phones, televisions, and x-ray sources.

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