Her first attempt, using bioluminescence, was
a failure. If the fact that she was using something with a complex
name like bioluminescence makes you feel that she knows more than
you do, then don't feel bad, because I'd never heard of
Apparently it is similar to the light that fireflies emit.
Many high-tech inventions are created by scientists or engineers
who work for big corporations, but Schroeder wasn't working for a
big corporation. And she wasn't a scientist or an engineer at the
time, either. She is a Hall of Fame inventor, though (she is in the
Ohio Inventors Hall of Fame).
Since her first attempt didn't work out, she tried again. This
time, she used phosphorescence. There she goes with those big words
again. Phosphorescence is a substance that glows after having been
exposed to light.
The idea of using phosphorescence came to her as she discovered
that the glow-in-the-dark frisbees that she had played with during
her younger years had used phosphorescence. The frisbees would store
up the energy from the light and then later glow in the dark.
So she took phosphorescent paint and painted a clipboard, then
put a piece of paper on top. The paper glowed, and she could see
well enough to write in the dark. She had been working on this
invention for two years before she patented it.
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in this article]
She named her invention the "Glo-Sheet" and began selling it. In
fact, she sold a lot; photographers bought them for their darkrooms,
movie and theatre critics bought them for taking notes in dark
theaters, and emergency medical technicians used them in ambulances.
Astronauts use Glo-Sheet when their electrical systems are turned
down for recharging.
Both the U.S. Navy and NASA contacted her about buying the rights
to her Glo-Sheet invention. In fact, NASA thought that she might be
a former employee since they had their scientists and engineers
working on a similar project.
If she was a former employee who developed it while working for
NASA, then NASA would own it. But she couldn't have been a NASA
employee. Why not?
Because she was only 10 years old at the time!
What was her reason for wanting to see if people could write in
It's often said that "necessity is the mother of invention," and
this inventor came up with her idea one day when she was trying to
do her homework in the car while her mother was shopping for
groceries. The fact that it was too dark in the car for her to do
her homework provided the inspiration that she needed.
Paul Niemann is the author of Invention Mysteries. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Paul Niemann 2005