Growing up in a predominately black school during the era of segregation, Johnson was not encouraged to reach greater heights than those typically known in his community. When Johnson entered the Alabama State Science Fair in high school, his impressive compressed-air robot won first prize, but there was no follow-up for his level of expertise and execution of “The Linex” robot.
According to biography.com, the sense of exploration in engineering started early. “Lonnie tore up his sister’s baby doll to see what made the eyes close,” his mother later recalled. Another time, he nearly burned the house down when he attempted to cook up rocket fuel in one of his mother’s saucepans and the concoction exploded.
Lonnie Johnson has patented over 100 inventions and has 20 additional patents pending. One of his most anticipated projects is the creation of the JTEC, the Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Converter, which will be used to convert solar energy into electricity with twice the efficiency of current methods.