History


Board Chairman Dr. Lonnie G. Johnson was born in Mobile, AL. He grew up with a natural inquisitiveness related to how things worked. As a high school student in 1968, he won the Junior Engineering Technical Society Southeast Regional Exposition and Conference contest held at the University of Alabama. He won with a robot that he had built himself. Later, he attended Tuskegee University where he received, over time, a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, an M.S. in Nuclear Engineering and an honorary Ph.D. in Science. Following stints in the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the US Air Force and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, he decided to strike out on his own. One day, while working on an idea for a heat pump, he experienced a scientific reaction that he thought could result in a vastly superior water gun. After eight years of experimentation, re-design, countless dead-ends and endless meetings, the Supersoaker was born. It became the most successful water toy in history with over $1B in sales.


Dr. Johnson used the royalties from the Supersoaker to fund a laboratory for research into state of the art ceramic batteries and a heat-to-electricity conversion device. Since 2003, the laboratory has occupied a quarter of an 80,000 square foot building that sits on 4 acres in downtown Atlanta, GA that is owned by Dr. Johnson. The property also contains a 3-story historical office building and a large former manufacturing building.