Insider’s look at research facility inspires students to change the world
Students from the South DeKalb YMCA’s STEM program tour Johnson R&D’s technology lab.
Ten DeKalb students who got an inside look at the Johnson Research & Development Co.’s technology lab in Atlanta on Aug. 1 came away inspired to become inventors.
The boys and girls, ages 11 to 14, from the South DeKalb YMCA’s Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) program toured the facility at 263 Decatur St. in downtown Atlanta with U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson as part of “Startup Day Across America,” a day for members of Congress to celebrate ingenuity and entrepreneurship in their back yards.
Ashley Pough, 11, who was part of the group, was wide-eyed as she looked over microscopes, a lithium-battery station, and a museum of invention prototypes.
“I’m inspired to make a difference,” she said. “I want to create something that can change the world.”
That is exactly what Lonnie Johnson, former NASA scientist and inventor of the wildly successful Super Soaker water gun and owner of the lab, wanted for the group of children.
He says the world of robotics is where jobs are headed.
Johnson, who is not related to the congressman, told the students that “as long as you can work together, this can be the start of something big.”
The 20,000-square-foot Johnson Research & Development Co. lab boasts large machinery and work spaces for robotics teams to bring their ideas to fruition.
After watching videos of student robotics competitions, Kylie Jones, 13, said she wanted to try her hand at inventing something.
“I learned that you can make robots and other things out of simple things in your house,” she said.
Rep. Johnson, whose 4th Congressional District includes portions of DeKalb County, told the students they need STEM knowledge.
“We are sparking the interest of our youth in careers in science and offering the kids the idea to use the skills they have to compete in robotics,” he said.
Johnson, the inventor, says kids really enjoy robotics and finding ways to build imaginative creations.
He allows local students competing in the First Global International Robotics Competition, which lures 16,000 student inventors annually, to use his lab to work on their inventions.
“Sometimes they enjoy it so much that we have a hard time getting them out of here at night,” Johnson said.
For more, visit www.gafirst.org.