At the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF), we take great pride in infusing insights from NIHF Inductees — Our Nation’s Greatest Innovators™ — into our programs. Their stories and video messages delivering invention challenges and seeds of invention wisdom are seamlessly integrated into each year’s brand-new curriculum for Camp Invention®, our nationwide STEM summer camp for children in kindergarten through sixth grade.
For our 2022 Camp Invention program, for example, we’ve crafted an experience called Robotic Aquatics™ featuring multiple NIHF Inductees, many of whom have revolutionized underwater exploration, including: Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Emile Gagnan and Harold Froehlich.
Inducted for co-inventing the modern demand regulator used in underwater diving, the team of Cousteau and Gagnan enabled the development of equipment known as the Aqua-Lung, which allowed for safer and deeper dives. In many ways, this technology made the underwater world accessible to the everyday person. Cousteau’s wealth of underwater exploration experience combined with Gagnan’s engineering expertise made for a powerful combination, and their invention was made possible because of their teamwork and collaboration.
While participating in Robotic Aquatics at Camp Invention, children are primed for teamwork through a video that highlights Gagnan and Cousteau’s collaboration. The co-inventors are also featured in each camper’s Inventor Log, a tool that encourages children to write and sketch their ideas for the invention prototypes they develop throughout the week.
The Inventor Log also introduces campers to Froehlich’s deep-sea submersible, Alvin. Developed while Froelich was working at General Mills, which had begun operating a number of aeronautical research labs in 1946, Alvin’s design included a novel and buoyant material called syntactic foam, a mechanical arm, and propulsion units enabling forward, horizontal and vertical movement. It also featured Plexiglass windows, a detachable steel cockpit and landing skids to rest on the ocean floor.
Since its first dive in 1964, Alvin has been used to help scientists map the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, discover hundreds of new species, locate the missing RMS Titanic and conduct environmental waste studies. Thanks to its revolutionary design and continuous modifications, Alvin, the longest operating deep-sea submersible, is still in use today.
In Robotic Aquatics, Alvin offers inspiration to children as they create their own “aqua innovations” — invention prototypes of devices that operate on or in the water. To encourage further immersion, campers are given customized stickers with portholes and other features and mechanics they can add to their creations for a more realistic design of a submersible or other underwater equipment. Through hundreds of hours of piloting and program delivery, we have been very impressed with many of the Alvin-inspired robotic arms and other features on children’s prototypes!