STEM Rocket

Super STEM Literacy: Who Invented the Super Soaker?

Whoosh: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

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What do NASA’s Galileo probe and water guns have in common? Lonnie Johnson, that’s what! Johnson was both a NASA engineer and a toy inventor.

Whoosh: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions introduces students to the life and accomplishments of this amazing man. Using his imagination and spare parts around his home, Lonnie started creating and inventing as a youth. He led a team to win a state science fair with a robot named Linex. He became a NASA engineer where one of his projects was creating a lightweight backup power system for the Galileo orbiter/probe that explored the planet Jupiter. Continuing to invent in his own workshop , he was working on a new cooling system for air conditioners when he inadvertently came up with the Super Soaker. It is a water gun that uses air pressure to shoot the water. After presenting to many toy companies, one finally agreed to produce it.

Lonnie Johnson and his Inventions

The book mentions rockets, space exploration, robots, as well as the famous Super Soaker. Work with students to find simple machines within toys . They can then brainstorm ideas for using simple machines to make other toys. Robotics can be explored with the Lego Robotics leagues and contests . NASA has ideas for teaching rocketry and solar system exploration .

Literature Connections

Connecting his NASA years with the stories of the Hidden Figures Scientists is another idea. If you are looking for some new literature connections. While Whoosh: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions is written with a different age level in mind the students love learning about the famous Human Computers of NASA. I’m so glad these amazing African-American Women Scientists are getting the recognition they have always deserved. My fourth and fifth graders were excited about their story and how John Glenn refused to go into space without their expert calculations.  Lonnie Johnson’s work is leading us into the future of space exploration. Mr. Johnson holds over 80 patents!

Give the students time to draw inventions of their own or build items from recycled parts. Your students can design their own rockets by using my lesson about paper rockets. This is a fun challenge I have done with kids and adults. You can find it here!

inventions for kids

Here are some video resources if you would like to use them!
Lonnie Johnson and Super-Soaker
Lonnie Johnson and Super-Soaker
Galileo probe
Simple machines
Simple machine toy vehicle project

If you would like to get your own copy of this book. Click on the link below.



Written along with Betsy Ruffin. Betsy is a retired teacher librarian, current technologist writer, and lifelong reader book-lover.

Sarah Winchell is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

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Hello and welcome to Science is for Kids! I’m Sarah, the author, and I’m glad you dropped by to visit my site. I love providing teaching ideas for elementary science teachers, and here, you’ll find my favorite lessons and resources to make learning science fun for kids. You can visit my About Me page to learn more.


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