Lonnie Johnson

Lonnie Johnson

President and Founder, Johnson Research and Development Corporation

Lonnie Johnson is president and founder of Johnson Research and Development Co., Inc., a technology-development company, and its spin-off companies, Excellatron Solid State, LLC; Johnson Electro-Mechanical Systems, LLC; and Johnson Battery Technologies, Inc.

Johnson holds a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering, an M.S. degree in nuclear engineering, and an honorary Ph.D. in science from Tuskegee University. Upon graduation, he worked as a research engineer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and then joined the U.S. Air Force, serving as acting chief of the Space Nuclear Power Safety Section at the Air Force Weapons Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In 1979, he left the Air Force to accept a position as senior systems engineer at the NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where he worked on the Galileo mission to Jupiter. Returning to the Air Force in 1982, he served as an advanced space systems requirements officer at Strategic Air Command (SAC) headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska, and as chief of the Data Management Branch, SAC Test and Evaluation Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base in California. He was awarded the Air Force Achievement Medal and the Air Force Commendation Medal on two different occasions. In 1987, he returned to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory where he worked on the Mars Observer project and was the fault protection engineer during the early stages of the Cassini (Saturn) project.

In 1989, Johnson formed his own engineering firm and licensed his most famous invention, the Super Soaker® water gun, to Larami Corporation. Two years later, the Super Soaker® generated over $200 million in retail sales and became the No. 1 selling toy in America. Over the years, Super Soaker ® sales have totaled close to $1 billion. Currently, Johnson holds over 100 patents, with over 20 more pending, and is the author of several publications on spacecraft power systems.

Johnson serves on the Georgia FIRST Board of Directors and has been an active supporter and proponent of FIRST since 2003.  He frequently serves as a judge and speaker at FIRST events and makes more than 20,000 square feet of space in his facility in downtown Atlanta available to FIRST teams for build space and scrimmage events. Lonnie’s daughter participates in FIRST® LEGO® League.