For Kids

The Super Soaker and Other Innovative Ideas from Black Scientists and Inventors


Lonnie Johnson is an American inventor and engineer who holds more than 130 patents. He worked for many years at NASA during the space program until forming his own company.

Lonnie is still inventing today! Lonnie's most famous invention is the Super Soaker, a water gun that uses pressurized air to shoot water. In the early 1990s the Super Soaker became the best selling toy in America. It was a really fun improvement over traditional water pistols that could only shoot a weak stream of water a few feet that was easy to outrun! Powered by pressurized air and with a water tank attached for extra water, the Super Soaker could shoot water several feet for soaking unsuspecting friends before they even had a chance to think about running. No wonder it was a favorite!

Like a lot of inventions, the idea for the Super Soaker came to Lonnie when he was working on something else, which resulted in water being squirted across a room. He made his first prototype from a plastic soda bottle and the rest is history. Whoosh! is the story of Lonnie Johnson life and the many patents and inventions he has created.

Watch below as Lonnie Johnson talks about his life as an inventor.

In the next video, meet Professor Umar Bey who brought his traveling exhibit from the Black Inventions Museum to Central Library. Look at all the different items on the tables, and those are just the small number of samples he could travel with. As Professor Bey says in the video "Every day you use something invented by a black person."

Websites, Activities & Printables:


Biography in Context is a database you can use in any IndyPL Library Branch or at home. Login using your library card number. Biography in Context will show you biographies, magazines, videos and more about African American scientists and inventors.

A Dozen Dazzling Books about Black Inventors and their Game Changing Innovations

Dive in to these books to discover details about some well-known black inventors, scientists & doctors or be dazzled by some lesser known contributors like the inventor of the ice cream scoop or the inventor of the Super Soaker. #indyplkids

Mae Among the Stars

Ahmed, Roda

A first introduction to the life of Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space. At a young age Mae knew she wanted to be an astronaut. This is the story of the importance of the encouragement of others, believing in your dreams and working hard. Mae's parents tell her, "If you can dream it, if you believe in it, and work hard for it, anything is possible."

Hidden Figures

The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race

Shetterly, Margot Lee

The fascinating story of four black women who were mathematicians at NASA. Despite segregrating practices at work, their perseverance, hard work, desire to contribute, and superior math skills resulted in many successes for the space program.

The Vast Wonder of the World

Biologist Ernest Everett Just

Mangal, Mélina

A beautiful and enlightening book about a biologist named Ernest Everett Just who studied cells. It is the story about his accomplishments but also the challenges he faced as a student, a scientist and a professor. He often lived in Europe where he could work and live with more freedom and respect.

To learn even more about fascinating and inspiring black scientists and inventors, visit the Center for Black Literature & Culture at Central Library. The Center is dedicated to celebrating the vibrant and resilient heritage and triumphs of those born of African roots.


~ IndyPL_CarrieW