As you know at Edison Nation, we are looking for innovative ideas that are submitted to our website from you, our inventor community. A big part of coming up with innovative ideas is being creative, and the best way to improve yourself is to practice. So here’s a fun exercise to grow and expand the inventive part of your brain.
Mind-maps help you analyze and create new ideas for a topic you want to focus on by connecting lines with related thoughts. It helps keep the flow of creativity going while tracking the evolution of how you got from one insight to the next. When creating mind-maps, using different colors and images will help highlight patterns and correlations.
Creativity Challenge — Push Yourself To Think Divergently
Actively engaging in exercises that foster divergent or unconventional thinking can encourage the generation of ideas. When you are searching for innovative solutions on your own, mind-maps can be a powerful way to come up with or to gain clarity about a topic of exploration. They are extremely versatile, and Edison Nation uses them all the time. They help you chart the recesses of your mind. The further you get from the center of the map, the more hidden ideas you can uncover.
· Tool: Mind-maps
· Participants: Solo activity
· Time: 15–60 minutes
· Supplies: Paper (the bigger the better) and pen
1. On a large
blank piece of paper, write your central topic or challenge in the middle of
the paper and circle it.
connections to the main topic and write them down, branching out from the
center as you go. Ask yourself, “What else can I add to the map that is related
to this theme?” Draw a rectangle or oval around any ideas that will lead to a
new chapter to emphasize that it will be a hub.
3. Use each
connection to spur new ideas.
4. Keep going! You are done when the page fills up or your ideas dwindle. If you are feeling warmed up but not finished, try to reframe the central topic and do another mindmap to get a fresh perspective. If you feel you’ve done enough, think about which ideas you would like to move forward with. Each challenge presents an opportunity for innovation.
Stay up to date on Edison Nation News, current product searches, upcoming shows, events, and everything innovative! We would not be the Edison Nation we love without each of you being part of our community!
Glen Ridge, NJ. My childhood home is coincidentally less than 2 miles from Thomas Edison’s home and lab!
Where do you currently reside?
Montville, NJ (30 miles west of Manhattan)
What is your professional background?
I was a teacher and have been a stay at home mom for about six years. I have no formal experience in the inventing world, just desire and the will to learn.
How did you initially hear about Edison Nation?
I read a news article online which touted EN as a reputable company and I have been hooked ever since!
What inspired you to start inventing?
I went to a top business school in NYC, but I transferred out after the first year. I always wanted to return to those roots, but it took me a long time to realize that I really loved being on the creative end instead, thinking of products and ideas in the nooks and crannies of my day. It is exciting really! I do consider myself an inventor (of sorts!) now and won’t ever give this up.
Do you find that invention ideas come to you or do you have to go after them?
I work in creative spurts and when I can as I have three small children. The great thing about EN is that you canwork on your sparks, keep up with the blogs or finalize your submissions at any time as it is all online and so simple. It is long day over here so if I have any energy left around 10pm or 11pm, I log in to EN to unwind and be inspired.
When did you come up with your first great idea?
I am not an inventor by birth, like many inventors I run into on the forums. I was in my thirties when my first idea hit. Bigger and better ideas have just kept coming since. I actually chuckle when I think about how shortsighted my first idea was.
Have you ever collaborated with another inventor(s) on a project? If so, how was that experience for you?
I have not but would welcome the opportunity!
What are some general industry trends you have noticed recently?
The inventor demographic is changing. Companies are looking at anyone with an outstanding new idea – moms, kids, seniors, etc.
How long have you been a member of Edison Nation?
I have been a member since 2014. It has fulfilled a need for me as I am a dreamer! I hope to commit to this a little more as my children grow. Now I am looking forward to Insider feedback as a missing link to be able to take my ideas to the next level.
Can you provide us with some details around your experiences and journey to date?
Two years after I joined EN and my first submissions, my middle son was diagnosed with Leukemia. Words can’t describe what we went through as a family. Thankfully he responded very well though it would be a long three-year treatment. We were pretty much homebound the first year, but I still wanted to invent and dream even though I was very busy as a caretaker. My husband was working so much but he literally gave me ten minutes of his workday one day so I could shoot a submission video. When I played it back later that night, I realized my son was sleeping in the background! I submitted that video and idea to two searches because it was the only chance I had during that time in my life.
To be able to show my children that you can still dream and work towards your goals no matter what your circumstance is invaluable to me. I am forever grateful to EN for the ongoing opportunity. My son is now six years old and is doing fantastic. He is an inspiration and a warrior, one month left of chemo medication!
What advice would you tell others embarking on their own invention journeys?
I think it is like anything, the more you practice, the better you get. I have submitted a bunch of times and having gotten to the finalist stage is just the amount of fuel I need to stay positive and encourage myself to keep trying for G8! Don’t get fixed on just one idea, you really do get better as you go along. Also, getting valuable, objective feedback as an Insider is something to consider as you move forward in your journey.
What would you consider as your biggest failure and what did you learn from it?
I remember having an idea and seeing a very similar product years later on the ASOTV shelf. The product on the shelf was the perfect form and I remember thinking that if I had really looked at my idea from all angles, I could have come up with it.
What are some other fun facts about yourself that you’d like to share with the EN community?
My family and I love to go to the lake in the summer, have dance parties and hike. Being together enjoying the small moments of life is the most important thing for me.
One of the biggest struggles an inventor can face at times is standing out and beating the competition of a crowded market space.
According to the Cambridge Business English Dictionary, the term crowded market can be defined as:
“A situation in which there is a lot of competition between company that are trying to sell similar products or services”
The competition can be defined as:
“An activity done by a number of people or organizations, each of which is trying to do better than all of the others”
When ideas are submitted to Edison Nation, they are evaluated through one of the three process, 8-stage evaluation, 6-stage evaluation and 4-stage evaluation.
Ideas submitted to sponsored searches, consumer healthcare and the open search undergo the 8-stage evaluation process.
Ideas submitted to the ASOTV search go through the 6-stage evaluation process.
And lastly, ideas submitted to the Insider licensing Program go through the 4-stage evaluation process.
Is your product idea patentable?
Before investing time or money pursuing an invention idea, ask yourself: Are there similar products out there? What makes my idea better? Why would a consumer buy this instead of an alternative? AND most importantly is it patentable?
Patentability can be one of the biggest factors to determining if your idea is going to make it in a market with similar products.
Patentability is defined as; A set of substantive requirements for a patent to be granted. An invention satisfying these requirements is said to be patentable.
There are three main terms that the government looks at when determining if your idea is patentable or not. The first factor that is looked at is usefulness, meaning the product has a useful purpose. This also has a requirement that the product idea is operable by the consumer.
The second factor that is reviewed is novelty. Novelty means that an invention cannot be patented if it was already known before the date of filing.
According to patent law an invention cannot be patented if:
The invention was known or used by others in the United States before the patent applicant invented it.
The invention was patented or described in any printed publication, before the patent applicant invented it.
The invention was patented or described in a printed publication in any country more than one year prior to the inventor’s U.S. patent application.
The invention was in public use or on sale in the United States more than one year prior to the inventor’s U.S. patent application.
The last factor that is reviewed is nonobvious. Nonobvious can be defined as “a sufficient difference from what has been used or described before that a person having ordinary skill in the area of technology related to the invention would not find it obvious to make the change.” To break it down, even if a new invention differs from an existing patented invention in one or more ways, a patent may still be refused if the differences would be obvious.
Example from Vincent Lotempio:
“The invention of a table consisted of a square top, a bottom and four legs.
Someone decided to make an improvement and change the shape of the table top to be oval. The argument by the patent office may be someone skilled in the art (a carpenter) would think it obvious that the top could be made in any shape or dimension and a round top would be rejected as an obvious improvement.
Even though the improvement of the first ever circular top is new, and it is useful it would be arguably not patentable if it was determined that it would be an obvious improvement for a carpenter to make a table top in any shape.” – VINCENT LOTEMPIO
The key to standout in a crowded market can be referred to by Jack Lander as the Goldilocks Zone.
The Goldilocks Zone means your product invention fits into the market in a way that’s not too hot; not too cold, just right. This means maybe your targeting a market where you know there would be some competition but not so much that your idea would get lost in the crowd. Look for the niches within the bigger markets to help your product idea stand out some.
Ultimately you want to be sure to do thorough research! It can’t be said enough, researching the competition and identifying why your product would stand out is very important.
To begin research, follow some of these tips:
Start with a simple online search – try using Google or Bing to search for similar products
Don’t just seek out identical concepts, consider how your idea stands up against what’s currently out there or what could potentially break new ground.
Other methods to explore can include other names, phrases and terms that might apply to your product. For example: a water gun – It can be called a squirt gun, super soaker, aqua blaster and more. Use a thesaurus, look for synonyms and other ways to describe your idea, this will likely bring up more competing products in the same market.
When researching the competition, it’s important to understand that a product does not necessarily need to look physically like your idea in order to be competition. Oftentimes, a competing product solves the same (or similar) problem in a very different way. In these instances, because something already exists to fulfill a similar consumer need, it would be difficult for a potential licensor to gain market share and earn enough revenue to warrant the initial investment.
As you continue to invent, keep these points in mind. If you’ve been an insider member for some time, some of these points may be familiar but we hope that we have expanded on some that even further here so that you can increase your chances for success!
The Global Pet Expo recently wrapped up their event in Orlando!
If you aren’t familiar with the Global Pet Expo, it is the largest annual trade show featuring the newest, most innovative pet products in the industry. The show features more than 1,000 companies from around the world and the latest innovative pet products. The show is also the place where more than 3,000 new products are launched.
We’ve gathered a few of our favorites below!
My Pet Pail
My Pet Pail is the latest in pet travel and this year’s Best in Show winner!
It’s obvious that we love taking our pets with us when we travel, and this product allows pet parents to do that in a more convenient way. The Pet Pail was invented to be a solution that provides dog parents with a travel pet feeder that could open to allow pets to eat and drink out of and then close the lid and go.
The Pet Pail is easy and functional! In addition to storing food and water, the case also has an extra collar and leash, waste bags, 2 built in bowls, 2 removable bowls and 2 – 20-ounce removable bottles.
Credit: My Pet Pail
This product can also serve as your at home feeder by snapping off the upper shell, allowing the lower bowl to be the slide proof feeder. The company responsible, Pet Partners Worldwide, also took it a step further and has also provided all customers with a lifetime warranty on any of their products.
The Spot Push-n-Pop Food and Treat Dispenser may be a bit of a blast from the past for some. The Push-N-Pop is very similar to the toy designed for toddlers called the Fisher-Price Corn Popper. What both have in common is that they both provide a pop sound each time the container is moved.
The Push-N-Pop was designed to be an advancement of slow feeding bowls for pets. The bowl provides a stimulating experience for both dogs and cats and is not the typical slow feeder bowl.
The food stays covered up the entire time and your pet powers the device by moving it across the floor. Each time your pet nudges the bowl food pops out of the top. This keeps dogs and cats mentally and physically active while boosting their IQ.
We highlighted a bowl earlier that targeted interaction and stimulation by your pets but this bowl is just for the Cats.
The Intellikatt bowl is a bowl that was created as a stimulating challenge for cats that ensures a slower feeding time as well. You can easily change the patterns and difficulty level by changing the bowls height and using the removable parts. There are over 500 configuration possibilities to help reduce bad behaviors by making him or her work their dexterity to allow him/her to eat their kibble.
PlayDate is a smart pet monitoring system in the form of a ball. The ball is not just any kind of ball but is a one-of-a kind interactive toy that allows you to play with your dog from anywhere you are.
Many of us pet owners dread the moment we close the door behind us, leaving our pets at home when life pulls us away from them. The creators of PlayDate knew that there had to be a way to connect with your pets when you leave, keeping them from becoming destructive and help with separation anxiety.
With PlayDate Smart ball pet parents can simply download the app and start driving the ball from where ever they are. The ball also has two-way audio and a wide angel camera, for a truly interactive experience with your pet.
If you’re like me and hate leaving your dog or cat at home, then this pet toy may just be a way to keep in touch with them when you’re away.
These products were just a handful of those on exhibit at this year’s Global Pet Expo. If you want to check out more of the products and see a list of this years winners be sure to check out the latest press release! We hope these pet toys inspire your next innovation!
CES (Consumer Electronics Show) is one of the biggest and most anticipated trades shows of the year. Insert boring stats about show square footage and attendance here. Yes, the technology is amazing. Yes, the exhibits are over the top, and all of the industry pros are there too. But it is a lot of work attending and exhibiting at the show. It is an exhausting week of travel, meetings, and pitching your product (or yourself).
This is what it is really like to attend the world’s biggest trade show. Pack your bags, we are headed to Vegas.
The show starts at the airport. From the east coast, it is about 5-6 hour journey depending on the route. If you are exhibiting, you will have some mix of very valuable prototypes and/or accessories for the booth, so it can be a nervy trip. Two years ago I checked a full size range stove, which received a few odd looks and queries from the airline staff.
Once you land, two things are a must. First, you need to check in at the CES table at the airport and get your badge, as you need this all week to get into the exhibit halls. Second, and most importantly, get your Uber driver to drop you off at In-N-Out Burger for a double-double with animal fries. Yummy. You may regret this a few hours later, but don’t let that stop you.
With your body still on east coast time, you wake up early and plug into email to make sure things are still good at the home office. The exhibit halls are closed to show-goers on Monday, but it is prime time for exhibitors to set up their booths. Depending on the size and complexity of the booth, this can take all day and is not without its troubles. 2019 was the first year for Enventys Partners as an exhibitor and our name tag was spelled wrong. Fortunately, the CES show staff had a new one printed for us on the quick.
Monday is also media day and conference speakers. If you have a media pass (as I did), you can go to a variety of press release events for many of the large companies that exhibit at the show. If you have paid the extra bit of money for the conference track, you can go to the panel discussions with industry experts. I went to a couple of panels about augmented reality which were really informative. Then it is off to bed early to be fresh for opening day.
Whomp. Whomp. Enventys Partners spelled wrong, the day before the show, but my custom LED signs are looking great.
The first day of the show is a whirlwind. The show opens at 10am, but exhibitors are allowed in a couple of hours early to tidy up their booths and make sure that their prototypes are working properly. The lobby is buzzing in the minutes before the doors open and there is an audible cheer that goes up once security allows the first attendees through.
Day one is also where you refine your pitch.
Whether exhibitor or attendee, the day is a wall of conversation and you learn really quickly how to refine your product or your whole career into just a couple of sentences. Everyone has business cards and/or flyers about their product in addition to the other swag like pencils and stickers, and it is important to pick up a free tote bag from whichever exhibitor has them on offer to hold onto the flyers you want to keep.
Day one is the most attended day and you need to make the most of it. Lunch is quickly taken at the food court in the exhibit hall or standing up while manning the booth. If you exhibit, you may not leave the booth for whole day. The time is just too valuable. If you have done your job well, you should have a hamburger sized stack of business cards to bring back to the hotel at the end of the night.
Outside of the Eureka Park exhibit hall minutes before opening. Yes. I got a free Arduino.
In the months leading up to the show, there is a flood of emails that go out to show registrants. Being part of the media I get hundreds of requests for meetings and interviews for all sorts of companies. Exhibitors also get flooded with requests for meetings with vendors, media and potential partners. Wednesday is a great day to schedule these types of meetings. If you have a booth, people will often come to you, so you don’t miss any valuable time meeting with other show goers. If the meeting is sensitive in nature, there are private meeting rooms available on the show floor to talk through the details of a deal.
CES is all about the after parties, and Wednesday night is prime time. Groups like Hardware Massive and other tech companies will have either invite only or first-come after parties at venues on the strip. I attended a French Tech meet and greet in Caesar’s Palace and was treated to some free beer while I futilely attempted to network with French entrepreneurs. The show floor is chaotic, but these after hours events give you the chance to make some deeper connections with other show-goers.
A picture of me taken of me (top) with Yuriy Pryadko with the Fish Ball 360 degree camera lens.
It’s day 5 and the past two days have been spent on your feet. You didn’t overdo it last night, but you probably have remnants of that three drink haze that are compounded by staying up way too late. Coffee (or tea in my case) is a necessary pick-me-up as you lumber back to the exhibit halls for another day. Your voice is likely at least a little bit hoarse, but you have to push through.
Most of the important meetings are behind you so there is time to explore the other exhibit halls, and you can head over to see all of the 8K TVs, VR headsets, and other whiz-bang tech. It is a perfect time (if you are a Sony shooter) to drop your camera off at the pro-services booth for a free checkup and sensor cleaning.
The Sony support desk where you can drop your Sony camera for a free cleaning.
Friday is the last day of the show and the atmosphere is much more relaxed. Many of the show goers (especially the overseas crowd) start to head back home. The exhibit halls are far less congested and you can see the droopy eyes on those that are left. You finally have time to meet your exhibit hall neighbors and see how their show is going. With less people in the halls, it is easier to get some good photos too. A sit-down lunch may be an option.
At the end of the day, it is celebration time. Everyone grabs a beer from the food court to toast to a job well done and they start getting packed up. It has been a long but fruitful week, and there is plenty of promise in the stack of business cards you have collected. An investor, contract manufacturer, mentor, or new friend may be buried in that stack. Unfortunately, the real work starts when you get home next week. You have an awful lot of emails to write.
Give yourself a round of applause. You made it.
You made it to the end of the show. You win a Nice Award.
As you know, Edison Nation likes to keep up with innovations in the home and housewares space, what better way to do that than take a look at was hot at the International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago. This year, the trends seem to lean toward convenience, Smart features, and really good coffee.
Take a look at our highlighted picks and hopefully get some great ideas for your next innovation to elevate the home space:
What’s better than relaxing with the right mood lighting, a speaker with your best organized playlist as its muse, and a cooler filled with your favorite adult beverages? It probably goes without saying that you’d jump at the chance to combine all three. And that’s just what Kooduu’s Synergy LED lamps do. They pull all the elements of a great party together in one cool item: Danish-style designer lamp, Bluetooth-enabled speaker offering high-quality sound, and a compartment that does double duty as a cooler or vase.
Choose from three different sizes: Synergy 35S (1.3 liters), Synergy 50S (2 liters), and Synergy 65S (4.8 liters).
This feels like science meets coffee preparation. [(Coffee Grounds + H₂O + Vapor Pressure) Vacuum Pressure]/2 Glass Bowls = the Perfect Brew. Okay, you’re right … it’s not rocket science, but it is a pretty darn good cup of coffee.
BODUM is already well-known for its accessible, yet elegant coffee makers. So, it should be no surprise that they also excel at presenting this vacuum process so beautifully. The PEBO® brewing process is purported to extract out all oils from your favorite brand of grounds. Make up to 8 cups of velvety sunshine in as little as 11 minutes in this European made, dishwasher safe counter art.
It’s like a Keurig, but for liquor! How tedious is it trying to remember which specialized ingredients go into your favorite advanced cocktail? Or reminding yourself how to NOT be heavy-handed while pouring?
Enter the Bartesian Cocktail Machine. It’s a simple process that yields results on par with any pro mixologist. Just pop in the capsule for your drink of choice (only 6 selections for now), add bottles of any shelf liquor for mixing, pick a strength, including mocktails for the kiddos and let it work. Bar mat, cap holder, lids, and glass bottles are all dishwasher safe. The machine measures 13.25” wide, 12.75” deep and 12.5” high, so it won’t take up too much space at the bar.
Get your own personal bartender, no tips necessary!
Well, it looks like the price of a personal maid for those days when you just can’t have finally gotten within reach. The vacuuming and mopping of floors in your house can be confidently handed over to … a robot. And to sweeten the deal, you can schedule the cleaning cycles via your smartphone.
The ECOVACS DEEBOT OZMO 930 is the gift you always wanted, but didn’t know you needed. Using Adaptive Floor Sensing, it effortlessly switches between vacuum and mopping modes. Smart Navi helps the DEEBOT map your home to customize areas to avoid for precision cleaning. Schedule times using the ECOVACS app with the support of Amazon Alexa® and Google Assistant®. Relax, the maid is in!
De’Longhi Pinguino Smart 4-in-1 Portable Air Conditioner
Welcome to the comfort zone. No offense to former Miss America, Vanessa Williams’s hit record, but it seems that De’Longhi may have a more credible link to that phrase. For over 40 years, the heating and cooling brand has shown its leadership in the comfort space. The De’Longhi Pinguino Smart 4-in-1 Portable Air Conditioner offers the innovation of helping you “create your ideal comfort zone at home.”
With four functions, cooling, heating, dehumidifying, and fan, that are designed to work most effectively in rooms up to 500 square feet. Smart features through the De’Longhi PAC app let you control temps, adjust fan speeds, and schedule remotely with voice control options via Google Assistant® and Amazon Alexa®. Real Feel technology helps control humidity and temperature reduction and along with the BioSilver air filter go above and beyond to lock in the best comfort level available.
Another whimsical Toy Fair took over New York’s Javits Center and it definitely left a lasting impression.
The 116th annual event is owned and managed by the Toy Industry Association as a place for play professionals to meet and network. This year’s showcase featured Star Wars, Harry Potter, Stranger Things and that’s just the licensing. Nostalgia, tech, STEM and more were on display in the form of Tiki Toss, paper planes with engines and build-your-own ride on sets.
Here are a few highlights from the “the largest toy trade show in the Western hemisphere”
LEGO® Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle
This collectible contains over 6000 pieces for a building experience that will take you awhile to complete. It features the Whomping Willow, as well as the Great Hall and the dreaded Chamber of Secrets! And if you’re a Harry Potter super-fan who already knows which house you’d be sorted into, there are 4 mini-figures of the legendary leaders: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Slytherin and Ravenclaw. The completed castle measures 22” high, 27” wide and 16” deep.
Choose from 6 different colors of Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty to build your puzzle. Along with blockers, bridges, and challenger cards, the player’s task is to connect the colored dots without crossing paths. Think you’re up for the challenge? Go from beginner to expert with multi-levels that develop critical skills through difficult problem solving. Great gift for kids ages 8 and up to stretch that STEM development.
Do I really need to convince you how awesome this is?!
If you grew up in the ‘80s or are a new fan because of Rey and Finn, then you’ve already imagined yourself holding a lightsaber and dueling for the fate of the galaxy. But, how cool would it be to have actual confirmation that you have moved from young padawan to actual Jedi master?
Thanks to Hasbro’s Star Wars Lightsaber Academy, you actually can. It comes with an app that you use to train, learning techniques and being graded on skill and accuracy. Of course, you can also battle your friends for bragging rights. This is your chance to join the elite and feel like a part of the movies.
Go ahead and give it a whirl!
Estimated Retail Price: $50
What the Film?!
The mind is a funny, creative place. It’s the place that all innovation starts.
So, the folks at Lethal Chicken Games came up with something that checks all those boxes. Imagine having a party with a big group of friends and there’s a call for a game to keep up the good vibes. Most people are fans of movies, just different genres. You bring out What the Film?!, where you combine an actor, plot and set to create your own cinematic adventure that can be as outlandish as possible. The objective is to craft the best story, but beware since your opponents can take your idea or bury it with the right industry connections.
Let your imagination run wild and explore Hollywood with an insider’s POV.
Ever fold single pieces of notebook paper into airplanes when you were younger? And did you ever pretend it came to life with an engine that could perform real maneuvers?
Whelp, I don’t think you were the only one. POWERUP 4.0 transforms your paper airplane into a high-flying machine with double the power courtesy of two propellers! Launch, steer and land your design with the help of this ultra-durable, Bluetooth-connected propulsion motor that’s hooked into POWERUP’s app so it records real-time flight performance stats. Use the data to adjust your design for optimal maneuverability. Intended for ages 14 and up.
The POWERUP 4.0 will be available online in the fall.
Your mission should you choose to accept it, is to protect your backyard/cubicle … AT ALL COSTS. Which means you’re going to need some serious defense.
Enter NERF with the ultimate one-person defense strategy. The N-Strike Elite Titan CS-50 comes with a drum cartridge of 50 foam darts that fire automatically with one press of the trigger, powered by four D batteries. Luckily, it comes with a nifty shoulder strap to help you heft all that firepower during your next standoff.
Estimated Retail Price: $100
HEXBUG Ring Racer
A twist on the usual motorized toy car, the HEXBUG Ring Racer has the ability to flip 360°, take a tumble and keep on moving. It’s heralded as “the latest in innovative, motorized technology.”
All the action takes place on dual spinning rings that self-stabilize while you control every move from the remote control. The racer comes in three different color schemes and is fully rechargeable via the USB cable that comes included. Also, don’t miss the added boost from the TURBO button and watch the excitement grow with the speed. Ages 8 and up.
Here’s a great alternative to all the toy guns on the market: bows and arrows with soft tips.
Two Bros Bows incorporates safe play with creative designs to craft a fun experience for kids. The combination set comes with a bow, three arrows, a quiver and a target. Choose from 17 different styles, including camo, dragon, tie-dye, galaxy, flower and more. Actually being good at archery will take some time. But, this is a great set to learn technique and not worry about crazy accidents. The brothers behind the brand were ages 10 and 7 when they came up with the idea for their successful retail business.
At first glance, you might be a bit disconcerted when you see the Plus-Plus Space Tube for its Saturn V Rocket.
It’s a clear tube of 240 pieces that you assemble into the finished product, a 3-D puzzle that glows in the dark. Simple, cool, and elegant all at the same time. Although, the toy is intended for ages 5 through 12, adults will get a kick out of putting this together. Its dimensions are 2” L x 1” W x 11” H. The set weighs in at only half a pound and is made in Denmark. If space is your hobby, you’ll definitely feel gratified having this as part of your collection.
You know how some of the best times in a parent’s life is when they partner with their kids to build something like a project for school or a treehouse? The flow of working with your hands and not having to think too much while learning things about your kid that you didn’t know before and sharing things about your past. Well, take all of that and add the bonus of building a ride on that you and/or your kid can take for a spin afterwards.
The Legend Kit by Infento gives you everything you need to create life-size vehicles, actually 35 in total. The choices range from a walker to an electric go-kart. Grab a kit, grab a kid and get building! The fun is guaranteed.
Estimated Retail Price: $1099
While the toys we’ve highlighted here are only just some of the innovations that took the New York Toy Fair by storm, we hope they inspired you to come up with new ideas – or at the very least, release your inner kid!
In this edition of Learning from InvENtors, we’re discussing an inventor who was eclipsed by his own super awesome invention that made summers so much fun for kids growing up in the ’90s and even now. Lonnie Johnson is the inventor of the Super Soaker® water gun that generated sales of more than $1B.
Lonnie Johnson is an avid inventor with over 100 registered patents.
In the span of 30 years, he has touched industries as diverse as toys, consumer products and energy efficiency. From Alabama to Atlanta, Lonnie Johnson has taken the inventor’s mindset and created a business that’s always a vanguard of innovation. Proving beyond a shadow of a doubt, that his near constant tinkering will revolutionize American technology.
Harnessing the power of the sun, Johnson is currently on course to completely level the field of renewable energy – the Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Converter (JTEC) may pave the way to affordable solar power.
Beginnings with Science and the South
Lonnie George Johnson was born October 6, 1949, in Mobile, Alabama, as a budding inventor with an insatiable curiosity. His father was a World War II veteran and civilian driver for the nearby Air Force bases while his mother worked as a nurse’s aide. Lonnie became inspired by the work of agricultural scientist and inventor, George Washington Carver. In 1968, he represented his all-black high school at a science fair sponsored by the Junior Engineering Technical Society (JETS) held at the University of Alabama. The only black student in the competition and given the period’s racial tensions, it was an even bigger testament to his talent that Johnson took first prize for his robot powered by compressed-air.
After winning a math scholarship, Johnson attended Tuskegee University. He went on to earn a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and a master’s in Nuclear Engineering from the famed historically black university.
USAF, NASA and Toy Success
After graduate school, Johnson worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and joined the United States Air Force as an officer through the ROTC program. He worked on their stealth bomber program and later in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. While helping NASA with its Galileo mission to Jupiter, Johnson stumbled onto the idea for a high-powered water gun. He had been working on a heat pump that utilized water in lieu of the environment-damaging Freon. Johnson was awarded the Air Force Achievement medal and two Air Force Commendation medals.
His very first patent came in 1979 for something called the Digital Distance Measuring Instrument, which utilized the same technology as CDs and DVDs. This was way before a meeting with a Larami Corporation representative at the 1989 Toy Fair led to talks about bringing the then-named Power Drencher water gun to market. It sold well, but once the name was changed to Super Soaker®, the toys flew off shelves. Along with the Super Soaker, Johnson is also responsible for the popular Nerf® soft foam dart guns.
The Future of Johnson R&D
Johnson Research & Development Co., Inc. was founded shortly after his success in the toy industry. The technology development company is on the cutting-edge of innovation. This includes work on a high-performance rechargeable battery that come in small sizes, have a long life and no risk of overheating. Johnson founded Johnson Battery Technologies to create this alternative to conventional lithium-ion batteries.
Back to the JTEC or a moment: The Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Converter is an engine that converts heat directly into electricity with no moving mechanical parts. It’s meant to double the output of the best in solar-energy systems, which provide only 30 percent efficiency. That would cut production costs enough to finally place solar power on a competitive field with coal. The JTEC is still in the laboratory phase, but according to Johnson, it could be used to convert body heat and waste heat from machinery into electricity along with converting heat from the sun.
Johnson’s Achievements and Impact
In 2017, Johnson was inducted into the Atlanta Tribune Hall of Fame. His invention, the Super Soaker was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2015. It’s apparent from the start that Johnson isn’t in this for the accolades. He’s said “inventing is me doing my thing.”
Although that hasn’t stopped him from being recognized: Popular Mechanics magazine awarded his JTEC innovation with its Breakthrough Award and the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame included him among its ranks. Heck, he even got his own day on February 25 thanks to the mayor of Marietta, Georgia.
Don’t be afraid to take a risk now and them. If you see an issue that you can resolve, fix it. Be like Lonnie Johnson and remain persistent in making your vision of things a reality. Just because others haven’t come around to seeing thing the way you do, doesn’t mean you’re wrong. Maybe, you’re just ahead of your time.
Firsthand Look at Vietnam’s Raw Innovation
My travels began in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) in the south. My partner Kerry and I trekked north to Hoi An and Hue in the center of the country, with our final stop in the capital city of Hanoi in the north.
The bustling capital of Hanoi is crowded and busy, even at night.
Vietnam is a country on the rise. Ravaged by war and the ensuing economic collapse, the second half of the 20th century was not kind to this beautiful nation. However, a few decades of peace, a growing manufacturing sector, a culture that values hard work, and an energetic youth generation, Vietnam is poised for massive growth in the coming decades.
So, it was with great enthusiasm that I visited Vietnam last fall to check it out first-hand. It was Ken Burn’s epic documentary “The Vietnam War” that ignited my interest in traveling there, but I also have personal ties that added extra intrigue for me.
My dad served in the Army in the 1st Logistical Command at the height of the war in 1968. He was tasked primarily with repairing vehicles and heavy equipment, and by and large speaks highly of how beautiful of a place it was despite his purpose for being there. It was war, and there were plenty of awful moments, but he had a pet monkey for a sidekick, was largely away from the daily fighting of the GI’s, and even got to see a Bob Hope performance. Most importantly, he made it back.
My travels took my from the Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) in the south and my partner Kerry and I trekked north to Hoi An and Hue in the center of the country, with our final stop in the capital city of Hanoi in the north. Along the way I met some interesting people and saw just how innovative and hard working the people there are. I kept my eye open for innovation and here are a few of my favorite innovations from my trip.
The picturesque limestone cliffs that dot Ha Long bay are one of many natural wonders that draw visitors to Vietnam.
War brings out the worst in humanity, but it is also a breeding ground for innovation. The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers that fought against the Americans used guerilla techniques that were very effective against the heavily armed and multitudinous US forces. However, this required a great deal of innovation to keep their forces geared up and hidden from the enemy, and a trip to the Cu Chi tunnel complex just north of Ho Chi Minh City demonstrates just how clever they were.
The tunnel complex was built to support the Viet Cong and was a safe haven for soldiers to rest, eat, and get medical care. However, it was very close to where American forces were stationed, and they took great measures to not be caught. They tended to only cook in the early morning when the fog would be dense enough to camouflage the smoke, and their chimneys were built long and horizontally to allow the gasses time to cool and lose their odor before they left the ground.
To mask human scent from American K9s, the Viet Cong would drag sacks of hot pepper, or clothes commandeered from American troops around the tunnel complex to confuse the dogs noses. If all that isn’t enough, they made sandals out of worn out tires and cut the soles such that were narrow in the toe and wide in the heel area, the reverse from a normal shoe. If they happened to make tracks in the dirt, it would look like they had walked in the opposite direction.
My partner Kerry Burch drops down into a narrow tunnel opening in the Cu Chi tunnel complex.
When life gives you a river..
The Mekong river provides millions of Vietnamese with the nutrient rich water for farming and for daily use. With the multitude of waterways in the delta, many people do not even bother to live on the land, and instead take residence on boats.
It was fascinating to see the details of how families had set up their house boats with everyday conveniences. My favorite was that with seemingly no place to have a pleasure garden, families instead built container gardens at the bow of their boats with bonsai trees or small herb gardens.
Of course the river is the lifeblood of the community and gets used for everything. While there I watched a woman who lived in a house on the bank of the river use a rope and a bucket to retrieve water from the river from her porch without having to walk all the way down to the bank.
Woman uses a bucket on a rope to extract water from the river.
The entire eastern border of Vietnam is on the coast of the South China Sea and seafood is a big part of their diet. While driving from Hue to Hoi An in the narrow central part of the country you can see many lagoons that are farmed by the locals for shellfish like mussels and clams.
We stopped at the bank of one of these pools and noticed that the farmers had a unique technique for farming the shellfish. They slit used motorbike tires along the circumference, stack them up, and stake them in the water with wooden posts. The shellfish take up residence on the tires and can then can be easily harvested by boatmen. With the millions of motorbikes that are ubiquitous throughout the nation, there is no shortage of raw materials for this technique.
A lagoon south of Hue with used motorbike tires used to farm for shellfish.
Bike in the Rain
Two things that Vietnam has a lot of are rain and motorbikes. The streets are often narrow and there is no infrastructure to support large vehicles, and there are huge taxes on cars, so the majority of the population uses motorbikes to get around.
However, Vietnam has a tropical monsoon climate, which means that some areas can have constant rain for months, which can wreak havoc for motorbike commuters. Innovation to the rescue.
Vietnamese riders use a sort of motorbike poncho that keeps the rider dry and makes the bike into what looks like a motorized tent. It even has a very clever transparent panel in the front that matches up perfectly with the headlight to keep people safe while riding in the rain at night.
Motorbike ponchos with a clear panel for the headlight like this one are common throughout the country.
In response to our latest search featuring REXON’s quest for new innovations in power tools, winches and hoists, we’ve decided to explore the history behind tools’ evolution.
DAWN OF TOOLS
The evolution of humans and their use of tools seem to run parallel. Let’s begin with the Oldowan or the age the first set of stone tools was created. Dating back close to 3 million years ago, they were discovered in Ethiopia, the cradle of civilization. During the Oldowan, tools consisted of rocks about the size of your hand used for pounding and sharp flakes (knives) made when pieces of flint, obsidian or quartz were knocked off by being struck with hard stones.
Leap ahead to the Acheulean period when rocks and their jagged siblings took on a more sophisticated look and form. Here is where roughly shaped hand axes and cleavers were introduced. Early hominids have given way to Homo erectus and along with the ability to walk upright also comes the necessity to carry tools instead of chucking after use. Sadly, tool belts are still at least a million years away …
However, the advent of fire wasn’t that far off. And where there’s fire, there’s sparks as in brain cells beginning to fire a little more often. With cognitive development on the rise along with better access to food and cooking thanks to tool progression, it’s a small step forward into modern innovations.
TOOLS WITH A LITTLE POWER
Flash forward through shelters, art, weapons, clothing, domestication of animals, the dissolution of Pangaea and world travel … the year is 1895. Boundless advances have transpired to bring us into the modern era of humanity: mathematics, science, gunpowder and the initiation of the Industrial Revolution. We achieved a lot and the only limitations to getting the job done were strength and endurance.
Enter German engineering company C&E Fein. Their plan was to enhance the manual drill by adding the power of an electric motor. And in doing so, Fein created the very first power tool. It wasn’t a resounding success, weighing in at 16.5 pounds and run with a weak motor that was inefficient at drilling.
This paved the way for more innovative methods of improving productivity and the unwieldy design. Duncan Black and his partner Alonzo Decker took up the cause and in 1916 had managed to produce a lighter version that modified the grip of a Colt .45 automatic pistol. The Black & Decker electric drill became the predecessor for all modern handheld electric drills.
Whether you’re creating new tool ideas for REXON or just tinkering in your home workshop, never forget just how far new innovation has brought us. As our ancient ancestors made use of what they had to make a better way for their tribes, we can do the same for our fellow man. It may not lead to as drastic a change as the invention of tools made to humanity’s survival, however, every step forward in making life easier is definitely a step in the right direction.
If this inspired your next idea, submit your tool ideas to the Rexon search now!