Three Boys Who Remained Curious By Kenneth Nwabudike Okafor Blog – www.naijagraphitti.blogspot.com
This blog / writer aim to buttress the message on allowing children room to exercise their curiosity and grow their imagination. This post presents three inspiring stories, across the world, some well known others obscure, but all involve people whose childhood marked the start of their stories of their inventiveness. This writer is certain you have your own stories to share, too. So let me add the stories of Richard Turere (Kenya), Paul MacCready (America) and Soichiro Honda (Japan) to the catalogue.
Richard Turere – Inventor, Lion lights Richard Turere, a young Maasai man who lives in the wilderness of the Kenya savanna, on the south edge of the Nairobi National Park and helped his dad with the family livestock keeping. Turere, a TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) presenter who illustrates the positive influence that problem-solving can have on a group of people – in this case, the African Masai community. Earlier this year, Turere, who is 13, traveled from Kenya to Long Beach, Southern California, United States to take to the TED2013 stage as one of "The Young, The Wise, The Undiscovered" featured at this year’s annual conference. "We had a very big problem with lions," says Turere who began herding his family’s cattle when he was 9. "They used to come almost every day and kill two cows per day. It was a really big problem, and I am responsible for my dad’s cows, so I had to find a way of solving this problem." Frustrated by the lions’ ongoing threat to his family’s livelihood, Turere began to experiment with a few tools on the farm and his most valuable asset, his ability to think critically. "I have
always tried to solve problems," says Turere. "I tried fire [because] I thought lions were scared of fire. I was actually helping the lions to see through the cowshed. I used a scarecrow. The lions came the first day and saw the scarecrow and they came the second day and saw the scarecrow. [Eventually], they did not care anymore. I walked around the cowshed one day [with a flashlight] and they didn’t come, so I discovered the [effectiveness] of a moving light." From there, Turere fitted a series of flashing light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs onto poles around the livestock enclosure, facing outward. The lights were wired to a box with switches and to an old car battery powered by a solar panel. They were designed to flicker on and off, tricking the lions into believing that someone was walking around with a flashlight. "I used to hate lions, but now because my invention is saving my father’s cows and lambs, I don’t think I hate lions anymore," says Turere. "We can live with them without any conflict. My neighbours used the lights, and they are used all over Kenya now in 75 homes. They are also using them to keep elephants away from the farms at night." Turere’s invention, which he designed and built entirely on his own, won him a scholarship to Brookhouse and caught the attention of TED during a talent search in Nairobi. And while the young cattle herder has had to get used to center-stage public speaking, he has become comfortable telling his story. Since his story hit the TED stage, Turere has become somewhat of a teen celebrity, profiled on international media including CNN and National Geographic and other high-profile news services around the world. "My friends are happy for me, and my family is proud of me," he notes. Richard Turere has shared Lion Lights with others in his Masai community, saving the lives of countless cows and lions and protecting his neighbours’ sources of income. Paula Kahumbu, Executive Director of the Kenya Land Conservation Trust who was one of the first to discover Turere’s talents, told CNN, "One thing that’s unique about Richard is that if you give him a problem, he’ll keep working at it until he can fix it. He’s not afraid of being unable to do something and I think this is why he is such a good innovator: Because he’s not worried that it might not work, he’s going to try and do it anyway."
Paul MacCready – Inventor, Gossamer Condor; human-powered airplane Paul MacCready was born to well-to-do parents in New Haven, Connecticut, USA. From an early age, he was an enthusiastic builder of model airplanes and gliders. Throughout his teens he won competitions and set records with flying models of his own design. MacCready began flying in his teens, and received formal flight training in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Although he did not begin building a human-powered airplane until he
was 51 years old, Paul MacCready had been involved with flight for most of his life. As a boy growing up in New Haven, Connecticut, he was fascinated with butterflies and moths, and his interests soon included model airplanes, too. MacCready did not just build standard aircraft. "For some reason I got interested in a variety of things," he says. "Ornithopters, autogyros, helicopters, indoor models, outdoor models. Nobody seemed to be quite as motivated for the new and strange as I was." After the war, he earned a physics degree at Yale University and a doctorate in aeronautical engineering from California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. At the same time, he took up soaring, that is, flying sailplanes or gliders as they are often called. He won U.S. soaring championships in 1948, 1948 and 1953, and represented the U.S. in international competition on four occasions. In 1956, he became the first American to win the world championship. He was the inventor of the MacCready Speed Ring, used by glider pilots the world over to select optimum flight speed. MacCready founded his first company, Meteorology Research, Inc., in 1951, to pursue weather modification and atmospheric research. In 1971 he founded AeroVironment, Inc., in Monrovia, California. The company consults on environmental issues and wind power. It also designs remote-controlled electric planes, as toys and as reconnaissance tools for the Department of Defense. A debt MacCready incurred helping a relative in business difficulties inspired him to pursue the prize offered by British millionaire Henry Kremer and the Royal Aeronautical Society to the designer who could create a human-powered flying machine. For 18 years, the prize had gone unclaimed. MacCready's Gossamer Condor made history in 1977, when it flew a figure-eight course over a distance of 1.15 miles and became the first human-powered vehicle to achieve sustained, maneuverable flight. Kremer offered another prize of 100,000 British pounds for the first human-powered crossing of the English Channel. In 1979, the Condor's successor, the Gossamer Albatross, flew across the Channel, and won the second Kremer Prize. MacCready's Bionic Bat won a third Kremer Prize for human-powered air speed. The bat (short for battery) uses human power not only to power the aircraft directly, but to continually recharge a battery, which stores power for continued flight. In addition to these, MacCready created the Gossamer Penguin, the world's first successful totally solar-powered airplane, and the Solar Challenger. Unlike MacCready's previous creations, the Solar Challenger was not designed to win a competition, but to awaken the public to the possibilities of solar energy. In 1981, the Challenger flew from Paris, France to Canterbury, England, a distance of 163 miles, rising to an altitude of 11,000 feet.
In 1985, the Smithsonian Institute commissioned MacCready to build a life-size, flying replica of the pterodactyl, a prehistoric flying reptile with a 36-foot wingspan. This remotecontrolled flying model can be seen in the IMAX film On the Wing. MacCready did not limit himself to the development of unique aircraft. His interest in environmentally sound technology led him to develop innovative surface vehicles as well. In 1987, he built the solar-powered Sunraycer, to compete in a race across Australia. In 1990, a collaboration with General Motors resulted in the Impact, an electric car that could accelerate from zero to 60 mph in eight seconds. Paul MacCready's contributions to flight technology were recognized formally in 1991, when he was inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame, but MacCready and his collaborators at AeroVironment had not yet exhausted their ingenuity. In 1995 their remote-controlled, solarpowered Pathfinder reached an altitude of 50,500 feet. Whatever shape the air and surface vehicles of the future may take, it is certain they will be marked by the singular genius of Paul MacCready.
Soichiro Honda – Engineer and Industrialist Soichiro Honda, born on November 17, 1906 in the small Japanese village of Tenryū, Shizuoka a small village under Mount Fuji near Hamamatsu, had always dreamed about the incredible vehicles, cars. Even as a toddler Honda had been thrilled by the first car that was ever seen in his village and often used to say in later life that he could never forget the smell of oil it gave off. Soichiro once borrowed one of his father's bicycles to see a demonstration of an airplane made by pilot Art Smith, which cemented his love for machinery and invention. He spent his early childhood helping his father, Gihei, a blacksmith, with his bicycle repair business. At the time his mother, Mika, was a weaver. Honda was not interested in traditional education, his school handed grade reports to the children, but required that it will be returned stamped with the family seal, to make sure that a parent had seen it. Soichiro created a stamp to forge his family seal out of an used rubber bicycle pedal cover. The fraud was soon discovered when Honda started to make forged stamps for other children. Honda did not realize that the stamp had to be mirror-imaged. His family name 本 田 was symmetrical when written vertically, so it did not cause a problem, but some of other children's family names were not. Honda left school at age 15 to seek work as an auto mechanic in Tokyo. His first job was hardly auspicious: For a year he cared for the infant baby of his boss's family. With the child
in tow, he often wandered the garage, watching the mechanics and making suggestions. As Honda tinkered with engines in between diaper changes and bottle feedings, it became obvious that his strength was not in child care but rebuilding engines. He was so good at it that he starting building engines for racing. He soon attempted a fulltime stint as a professional race-car driver, but a crash suffered in a race nearly killed him and sent him back to work as a mechanic. A second crash soon after, in which he drove off a bridge with several geishas in the car (everyone survived), put a stop to a nightlife that, like his race-car driving, had veered out of control. A newly focused and newly wedded Honda began working for a succession of mechanics in the mid-1930s, a period in which he focused largely on refining piston action to build a higher performance engine. When he formed his own company in 1937, Japanese militancy was at its height, and in 1938, Honda's company was forced to switch to building engines for the Imperial Navy's boats and planes. After Allied bombing leveled his factory near the end of the war, Honda showed that his mechanical genius extended to pursuits other than cars. For more than a year, he made a living brewing alcohol with a homemade still. In 1948, he returned to his true love by starting a new company: Honda Motor Co. This time, he took on a partner, Takeo Fujisawa, to handle the back-office operations that Honda found so crushingly dull. They soon came up with the batabata, a motorized bicycle named after the sound the engine made. The motorcycle, which more established Japanese automobile companies like Toyota and Nissan had never introduced on a large scale, became a huge hit across Japan. Honda's most popular model, the Dream, could soon be spotted all over the Japanese islands. But Honda, already becoming legendary for spending long hours in the shop with engineers, had something bigger in mind: building a car that would leave Toyota's and Nissan's models in the dust. Honda did not stop dreaming about making cars though. He then started to manufacture metal piston rings that moved up and down in a carâ€™s engine and converted energy in gas into force that helps turn the car. At first, Honda thought that making piston rings was easy, but he was proven wrong. His first tries were unsuccessful, for the rings were easily breakable. He went back to school to study metallurgy and to learn how to work with metal. Soichiro tried many times before he perfected the rings in 1940. He sold them to Toyota, one of the first car companies of Japan. During World War 2, Honda was asked to make propellers for airplanes. After the war was over, the Japanese could not afford cars because they lost in the war. Honda was daunted, but he was still able to make a living through repairing old vehicles. Gas for cars was very costly after the war, so Soichiro rode the train every day. He loathed traveling on the
crowded train, but riding his bicycle was too slow. So, Honda combined the bicycle’s structure and the car’s motor to create a mini low-cost motorcycle. This interested and impressed local businessman Takeo Fujisawa, who built a motorcycle factory. Honda and Fujisawa then teamed up and established the Honda Motor Company. Soichiro continued to improve motorcycle motors to make them more powerful and get more gasoline mileage for the same price. Honda was very precise about his motorcycles. He wanted them to be perfect, so when he yelled at his associates, or workers, he was nicknamed "Mr. Thunder." Although he shouted at his workers, he treated them fairly and included them in new ideas. He would even let them keep the money they made with their new invention. Honda then began to dominate America’s motorcycle industry with his brand new Super Cub motorcycles in 1959. When Soichiro Honda went back to the car industry, he started shipping middle-sized cars. Tadashi Kume helped prevent the terrible mistake of having air-cooled engines rather than water-cooled engines. He convinced Honda to change his decision and Soichiro was glad. In 1972, the Honda Civic arrived in the U.S. It was a very "green" car and helped the environment. During that time, gas went up dramatically in price. People liked the Civic for getting double the mileage than American cars. Sales were good. To Honda, the former motorcycle mechanic who eventually racked up 150 patents, all success came down to individual motivation. The man who built Honda Motor Co. (HMC) into one of the world's most innovative auto companies and spearheaded the Japanese challenge to America's Big Three carmakers in the 1970s and 1980, once told a reporter: "Each individual should work for himself. People will not sacrifice themselves for the company. They come to work at the company to enjoy themselves." At the age of sixty-six, Soichiro Honda retired and left the younger associates in charge of company. He was still a director of the company and enjoyed his retirement NB: Richard Turere is starting out in his life’s journey and this blog wishes him good success. Again this blog is emphasizing the message: LET CHILDREN, PLAY, AND LEARN FROM WHAT IS AROUND THEM. GUIDE THEIR CURIOSITIES, AND CHANNEL THEIR ENERGIES. AS A PARENT / GUARDIAN, IF YOU RUN OUT OF IDEAS, GET HELP. ALL THESE SHOULD NOT STOP THE CHILD GETTING A FORMAL EDUCATION. LET OUR CHILDREN DISCOVER THE JOY OF DISCOVERING THINGS. . .
Sources: 1. a) Knowledge@Wharton http://kwhs.wharton.upenn.edu/2013/06/the-power-of-ideas-thinkersdoers-and-roaring-innovation/ b) TED Talk: Richard Turere: My Invention that Made Peace with the Lions http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_turere_a_peace_treaty_with_the_lions.html 2. Paul MacCready Biography. http://web.mit.edu/invent/www/ima/maccready_bio.html 3. Business Week "Soichiro Honda: Uniquely Driven" By Mike J. Brewster http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/aug2004/nf20040817_3267_db078.htm
Published on Jan 5, 2014
This post presents three inspiring stories, across the world, some well known others obscure, but all involve people whose childhood marked...