Inventors, you may think, are all well-trained scientists working in labs crammed with the latest technical gadgets. Not so. Many inventors have no special training or equipment-except their lively imaginations. In fact, many successful inventions have sprung from the minds of young people.
Take Jonathan Santos, of Bowie, Maryland. In 1983, Jonathan, 18, won $1,200 in prizes at the International Science and Engineering Fair, in
Albuquerque, New Mexico. He had invented a fuel-saving wingtip attachment for airplanes (right). The young inventor began thinking about fuel costs when he was 14. “I wanted to take flying lessons,” he says, “but they were too expensive. If I could invent something that would make flying cheaper, maybe I could afford the lessons.”
Like the Wright brothers, Jonathan began studying the flight patterns of birds. He learned all he could about the flow of air over aircraft wings. Then he began designing wing attachments and testing them in a home-built tunnel (below). Two years and sixty designs later, he came up with an
SEEKING TO MAKE FLYING CHEAPER, Jonathan prepares to test a wingtip attachment in a wind tunnel he built. He invented the attachment and the motion-measuring device he is holding.
Jonathan will insert the device into the tunnel and through the wingtip attachment. The blower, far left, will generate winds up to I 00 miles an hour ( 161 km/ h). The measuring device will show the amount of wing lift the wind produces. It will also show the amount of drag-resistance to the wind.
WINNING TIP. Jonathan displays a model of his airplanes wingtip attachment (right). It won a grand prize at the 1983 International Science and Engineering Fair, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The device changes the way air flows around a wingtip as an airplane flies. Ordinarily, the swirl of air ata wingtp produces drag. ]onathan’s device redirects some of that drag o produce a lifting and pushing force. The device could mean a luge saving in the fuel needed to fly a plane-up to 2 7 percent.