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've
never heard of bioluminescence either.
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 Becky 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.
She named her invention the "Glo-Sheet" and began selling it. In
fact, she sold a lot of them. Photographers bought them for their
darkrooms; movie and theater 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.
[to top of second column]
Both the U.S. Navy and NASA contacted Becky 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 when Becky developed her Glo-Sheet.
If she was a former employee who developed it while working for
NASA, then NASA would own it. But Becky 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
Becky came up with the 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's column is syndicated
to more than 70 newspapers. He is the author of the "Invention
Mysteries" series of books. He can be reached at
Copyright Paul Niemann 2008