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  • Writer's pictureAngelo Corbelli

The 6 Engineering Wonders: Inventions you Never Knew Were Created by Engineers


Have you ever marveled at the convenience of Velcro? Or perhaps gazed up at the night sky and wondered about the remarkable technology that got us there? It's no secret that our world is filled with incredible inventions, each revolutionizing the way we live, work, and explore. But what if we told you that behind some of these groundbreaking creations were ingenious engineers whose names often go unnoticed?


Engineering wonders of the world

In this blog post, we'll embark on a fascinating journey through the world of invention, unveiling six remarkable innovations you probably didn't know were created by engineers.


Number 6: Velcro


The tale of Velcro's creation serves as a captivating illustration of how nature can inspire innovation. George de Mestral, a Swiss electrical engineer, found his moment of inspiration during a leisurely walk with his dog in 1948. As they meandered through the countryside, he couldn't help but notice how tenacious burrs from plants clung to his clothes and his dog's fur. This chance observation piqued his curiosity, leading him to examine these tiny hitchhikers under a microscope.


To his amazement, he discovered that these seemingly unassuming burrs were adorned with minuscule hooks. It was this revelation that sparked the idea for a revolutionary fastening system – the hook and loop mechanism we now know as Velcro, cleverly coined from the words "velour" (velvet) and "crochet" (hook).


In 1955, George de Mestral obtained a patent for Velcro, though its initial adoption faced aesthetic challenges, limiting its use primarily to specialized applications like sports gear. However, the breakthrough came when NASA embraced Velcro for space missions in the 1960s, catapulting it to widespread recognition and use across diverse products, ranging from children's shoes to cutting-edge medical equipment.


It is truly fascinating how everyday observations can lead to groundbreaking innovations that can simplify our lives in countless ways.





Number 5: Post it notes

In the year 1968, Dr. Spencer Silver, a scientist at the prestigious 3M corporation, embarked on a mission to formulate a robust adhesive. However, what emerged from his experiments was quite the opposite - an adhesive that adhered to surfaces with gentle finesse and could be effortlessly removed without leaving a trace.


Initially, this invention seemed like a solution in search of a problem, until the fateful day when Dr. Silver's colleague, Art Fry, recognized its potential as a bookmark that wouldn't harm the pages of his hymnal.


In 1977, 3M cautiously test-marketed the product as "Press 'n Peel" in four cities, yielding modest results. However, a strategic shift in 1978 led to the launch of an audacious marketing campaign in Boise, Idaho, aptly named the "Boise Blitz." This initiative included distributing free samples to offices, and the response was nothing short of remarkable - over 90% of those who tried the product expressed their intent to purchase it.


By 1980, Post-it Notes made their way across the United States, soon spreading to Canada and Europe the following year. Interestingly, the iconic Canary Yellow color of the Post-it Note emerged from a fortunate circumstance - it was chosen simply because a neighboring lab had an abundance of scrap yellow paper. Both Spencer Silver and Art Fry concluded their careers at 3M with numerous accolades, including their induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2010. Their invention, initially perceived as unnecessary until people experienced its brilliance, has since become an indispensable tool in offices, classrooms, and homes worldwide.



I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success - Nikola Tesla


Number 4: THE Slinky

The Slinky's story begins in 1943 when Richard James, a naval engineer with a passion for innovation, stumbled upon an 'odd' discovery. While working on a project to create tension springs for stabilizing sensitive instruments aboard U.S warships, a spring accidentally tumbled from his desk. As it fell, he was captivated by its distinctive, almost dance-like, walking motion. This interesting motion inspired Richard and his wife Betty to embark on a journey of experimentation, ultimately giving birth to what Betty called the "Slinky".


In 1945, the couple founded James Industries and introduced the Slinky to the world at Gimbels Department Store in Philadelphia. The response was nothing short of extraordinary, with the initial inventory selling out in a mere 90 minutes. The Slinky quickly became a sensation, selling over a quarter-million units in its first year.


The Slinky's capabilities extended far beyond being a child's plaything as during the Vietnam War, soldiers ingeniously employed it as an antenna for radios. It even embarked on a cosmic adventure aboard the Discovery Space Shuttle in 1985 to demonstrate the effects of zero gravity. Eventually, the "Slinky" made it to the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2000. To date, over 300 million Slinkys have been cherished by people of all ages across the globe, continuing to delight generations with its elegant yet captivating design.






Number 3: THE SUPER Soaker

The Super Soaker, aka. "Water Gun" is a beloved and globally renowned toy, that owes its existence to the genius of Lonnie Johnson, an engineer with a remarkable background in both the military and space programs. His inventive genius was evident even in high school where he won a science fair with a robot crafted from discarded junkyard parts. He later earned degrees in both, mechanical and nuclear engineering.


Throughout his professional career, Lonnie Johnson left an incredible mark with significant contributions, including stints at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory as well as his service in the U.S. Air Force in the development of the stealth bomber.


In 1982, while experimenting with a novel heat pump design at home, Johnson unintentionally unleashed a potent stream of water. This incident then sparked the idea for a high-powered water gun. Despite initial skepticism from toy manufacturers, Johnson persisted and successfully licensed his creation to the Larami Corporation in 1989. After some strategic rebranding and marketing, it emerged as the Super Soaker and swiftly captured the hearts of people worldwide, becoming the best-selling toy globally in 1992.


Lonnie Johnson's Super Soaker invention not only brought joy to countless individuals but also granted him the financial freedom to pursue other innovative ventures, including groundbreaking work in energy technology. With over 120 patents to his name on a diverse range of products and processes. His exceptional career trajectory serves as an enduring source of inspiration, particularly in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.






Number 2: Play-Doh's


In the late 1920s, the Cincinnati-based Kutol Products soap company crafted a product with a specific purpose: to cleanse soot from wallpapers. However, with the arrival of oil and gas heating systems that reduced soot buildup, the demand for the wallpaper cleaner began to dwindle in the early 1950s.


The game-changing moment for Play-Doh occurred when Joseph McVicker assumed leadership of Kutol Products following the passing of his father, Cleo McVicker. In 1955, Joseph's sister-in-law, Kay Zufall, a schoolteacher, stumbled upon an alternative use for the wallpaper cleaner – as modeling clay in her classroom. The children were enthralled by it, leading her to propose repurposing the product into a children's toy.


Thus, Joseph McVicker established Rainbow Crafts Company Inc., a subsidiary of Kutol Products, to introduce the newly christened Play-Doh. Initially available only in white, Play-Doh swiftly expanded to include vibrant primary colors like red, blue, and yellow. By 1964, Rainbow Crafts was dispatching over a million cans of Play-Doh annually, prompting General Mills to acquire the company in 1965.


Today, Play-Doh boasts an estimated two billion cans sold worldwide and holds a prestigious place in The Strong's National Toy Hall of Fame. The success story of Play-Doh serves as a timeless example of how a versatile product, coupled with astute market observation can transform into a globally cherished brand.






Number 1: CHAMPAGNE


Born in 1638 in the Champagne region of France, Dom Pérignon was a French Benedictine monk. Contrary to popular belief, he did not invent sparkling champagne, but his contributions to the production and quality of Champagne wine were monumental at a time when the region predominantly produced still and red wines. Entering the Benedictine order at the age of 19, Dom Pérignon later assumed the role of cellar master at the Abbey of Hautvillers near Épernay.


His innovative spirit was crucial in the elevation of the region's wines, advancements such as creating a press for white wine production from black grapes, unraveling the impact of climate on winemaking, reintroducing cork as an effective seal, and adopting sturdy English glass bottles capable of withstanding higher amounts of pressure.


Perhaps his most notable contribution was the development of the 'méthode champenoise' wine production style. He diligently studied ways to prevent bottle explosions arising from secondary fermentation, advocating for harvesting in cooler conditions, smaller crop sizes, and blending grapes before pressing.


Dom Pérignon was among the early pioneers in using his own name and persona as marketing tools, significantly boosting the sales and reputation of Hautvillers wines. Over time, the name Dom Pérignon has become synonymous with top-tier champagne, with the prestigious champagne house Moët & Chandon adopting it for their 'prestige cuvée.' Though the brand was established long after the monk's lifetime, it represents the epitome of luxury and excellence in champagne making, honoring the enduring legacy of Dom Pierre Pérignon.






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Welcome to the blog, Angelo Corbelli is a Mechanical Engineering student at FIU with a passion for the aerospace industry as well as health and fitness.

Feel free to check out the rest of my website, where you can find an extensive collection of the projects I've had the opportunity to work on. You'll also discover a variety of images that provide visual insights into these projects.

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