Paradigms (June 2017)…you-do-to-sharpen-your-problem-solving-skills


How Maurice Ashley, the first black chess grandmaster, uses the game to change inner-city kids’ lives

 By: | May 19, 2016 3:13 pm

ST. LOUIS — Maurice Ashley remembers the sounds of the gunshots and the blaring sirens that followed. He was playing chess in a Harlem park, like he did most days, and when he looked up from the board, he saw the shooters trading fire three blocks away.

Ashley moved to Brooklyn before high school in the early ’80s. His grandmother raised him and his two siblings in St. Andrew, Jamaica for ten years while his mother worked in New York, saving money until she could afford to bring the family to the States.

Ashley is telling the story more than three decades later as he sits in the plush lobby of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis. While some of the details have faded, he’s sure about one thing: He didn’t leave his game when the shootout began. Neither did any of the hustlers he was playing (yes, money was on the line). They just continued moving pieces, talking the kind of trash most commonly heard on a basketball court, not over a game whose national championship is played in silent, indoor rooms.

“Oh, please, the guys at the park would talk about your mama, about how stupid your moves were,” Ashley says. “They’d ask if you had a sister they could date. They’d say anything, some of the stuff I can’t even repeat — it was hyper-aggressive stuff you get from being in the streets of Brooklyn.”

Ashley wears an immaculately pressed, light gray three-piece suit with a blue, plaid tie that’s a shade lighter than his shirt. He speaks with his hands when he talks, twisting his wrist and holding his palm up as he makes a point, often gesturing at imaginary figures on imaginary walls.


Charlotte Wilder

The gesturing makes sense, given that, after a career on the world circuit as a chess grandmaster, Ashley now serves as the commentator who deciphers moves on a virtual board for the U.S. Chess Championships. He’s in St. Louis in April to call the two-week-long tournament — featuring 7-hour games — just as he has for the past seven years.

But this year, he’s also there for another reason. He’s being inducted into the Chess Hall of Fame. He’ll be the first African American to bear the honor, just as he was the first to become a grandmaster in 1999.

Ashley first got into chess by accident — he sat down to play a friend one day in Brooklyn and was surprised at how easily the friend won. Ashley then went to the library and took out a book on chess. But even after reading it, he lost again. From there, Ashley became both determined to beat his friend and obsessed with the game. After graduating from Brooklyn Technical High School, he went on to the City College of New York, where he joined the chess team and majored in creative writing.

Since his days playing in the park, Ashley never considered a career path other than becoming a Grandmaster someday. He described it as a calling rather than a choice.

As for the milestone of becoming the first African American to have his picture on the wall in the Chess Hall of Fame, Ashley says it’s only a big deal because of what it means for the future.

“It’s important that you have a first only because it implies that they’ll be a second, and a third, and fifth, and a tenth,” he says. “To attach anything else to it is really more like a societal assessment and characterization of something. It’s my blessing to be able to forge a new path and to open up opportunities and to break down barriers of the mind.”

Ashley has made it his mission to break down barriers of circumstance. He’s been doing so since the 1980s by bringing what he described as the historically very white, very male game of chess to underprivileged kids in inner-city schools. Three of his New York City teams have won national championships. He also has programs in New Jersey, Baltimore, and Richmond. After Mike Brown was murdered in Ferguson in 2014, Ashley teamed up with the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis and the non-profit Ascension to start a program called Your Move Chess in schools there.

Ashley firmly believes that even if kids don’t rise to the same prominence within elite chess that he did, the analytical thinking and problem-solving skills developed by the game will allow kids to excel beyond the board.

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 11.31.40 AM

Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis

Warm and charismatic, Ashely is as compelling in person as he is on his broadcasts. In addition to his duties as commentator and coach, he also organizes his own chess tournament in Atlantic City, has built a successful chess app, written several books, and tours as a motivational speaker. He commentated the 1996 and 1997 matches between IBM’s Deep Blue and Grandmaster Garry Kasparov. Actress Jada Pinkett Smith gave her husband, Will Smith, a three-hour lesson with Ashley for Valentine’s Day in 2000.

“I’ve got to get downstairs,” Ashley suddenly says, looking at his watch and raising his eyebrows. “We could talk forever, but I have games to call.”

Standing up, Ashley smoothes the front of his jacket, then jogs down the steps to the basement. The actual tournament, as well as the U.S. Women’s Championship (women are eligible to play in the highest division, but none qualified) is taking place upstairs, in a room set with six chess boards. The TV crew that broadcasts the tournament is working out of a windowless room filled with desks, microphones, and monitors in the bottom of the building.

A small room next door features an elaborate set from which Ashley and two other chess grandmasters, Yasser Seirawan and Jennifer Shahade, are announcing the games. It looks like the set of an ESPN show, but the graphics on the screens are of queens and kings. Shahade and Seirawan provide the desk commentary, while Ashley stands in front of a screen and deciphers specific moves.

A producer counts down, and the broadcast is live. Shahade and Seirawan give an intro before play begins, and then it’s over to Ashley, whose face lights up as he begins to describe the moves.

“This is a crazy first round, there is fire on the board,” he exclaims. “We’ve never seen anything like this before!”

He moves pawns around on a touchscreen behind him, part weatherman, part John Madden. According to the Chess Club, millions of chess fans around the world tune into the webcast, and it’s not hard to see why: Ashley is so dynamic that you get swept up in the action, which, this day in St. Louis, seems to be mostly that the sixth-best player in the world, Hikaru Nakamura, has just done something exceedingly stupid (Nakamura would end up slipping in the final rounds to place third, behind Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana. This year, Caruana would win his first national title at the age of 23).

But when you step back from Ashley’s thrilling commentary, you remember that the action is two men, brows furrowed, wearing ill-fitting suits as they play chess in a completely silent room.

It’s a far cry from a raucous Brooklyn park.


Charlotte Wilder

To get into the room where the play actually happens, a security guard with an electronic wand pats you down to make sure you’re not smuggling in a phone, lest you somehow try to help players cheat. No one is allowed to speak during the games. All you can hear is the dull clunking of pieces being placed on squares and the following click of the timer that players must hit after each move.

You could easily mistake the players for a performance art exhibit in a museum. They sit impossibly still, cordoned off by those retractable borders that keep you from touching the paintings. Many of the 12 men, some of them boys, really, at 15-year-old, hold their heads in their hands, thumbs on their temples like vises.

The most movement comes when a player silently gets up from the board while his partner contemplates his next move. During these sojourns, they examine other games or take food from a table that looks like it’s set for high tea. Small sandwiches, cheese plates, fruit cups, homemade protein bars, mixed nuts, and many different types of soda are laid out in geometric patterns. If you were, hypothetically, to snatch a handful of nuts, you would be approached by the arbiter—referee, essentially—who would break the no-talking rule to whisper to you that the food is only for the players. You would be ashamed.

Three of the top ten chess players in the world are in this room, the first time that many Americans have been in the international elite all at once. Ashley described it as “an epic event.”

None of the players in the room are women. And none of them are black.

“Chess was historically very white,” Ashley says. “The fact that I was the first African-American to become a Grandmaster in 1999 illustrates that whole history.”


At 3 o’clock the day before the tournament, 14 or so seventh grade girls trickle into a classroom at the Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls in North St. Louis.

A teacher passes around checkered plastic mats, plastic baggies filled with chess pieces, and sheets of paper with the strategy the girls are supposed to focus on that day. Various sequences of moves in chess have specific names, such as the King’s Gambit, the Double Attack, or the Sicilian Defense. The girls waste no time setting up the boards and beginning to move the pieces around.

The girls are participants in the program that Ashley launched in St. Louis in conjunction with the Chess Club and Ascension.

“For me, it’s a great honor to be able to do that,” Ashley says. “This program has been such a godsend to the community here. Ferguson has a certain stigma because of what happened to Mike Brown, but those little kids growing up there don’t care about that stuff. They just want to try to be successful.”

Ashley says that more and more African American communities are embracing chess, so he thinks it’s only a matter of time until that’s reflected in the elite levels of the game. But even though most of the kids in Ashley’s programs statistically won’t become grandmasters, chess can help some of them grow.

“The kids don’t just learn chess,” says Jennifer Andrade, the principal at Walnut Grove Elementary, another one of the schools to take up the program. She’s speaking by phone, and you can hear the bustle of the hallways in the background.

This program has been such a godsend to the community here. Ferguson has a certain stigma because of what happened to Mike Brown, but those little kids growing up there don’t care about that stuff. They just want to try to be successful.

“They learn cooperation, they learn teamwork, they learn strategy,” Andrade continues. “They also learn how to do a little trash-talking, but in a positive, good sportsmanship way. What it’s done is just lifted them.”

Andrade says that parents have gotten into the game, too. Some joke with her that it’s become a problem, because they play chess with their kids instead of, oh, say, making dinner and doing the dishes.

“We’ve made a change. A positive change. I attribute it directly to chess, and all of that happened because of Grandmaster Ashley.”

The Walnut Grove Chess Club watched the U.S. Chess Championships this year, and Andrade says she’s never had kids turn in their field trip forms so quickly. Ashley has also matched the club up with a program in Switzerland, and the kids are now pen pals. They’ll soon be playing online matches with their peers across the ocean.

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 11.34.22 AM

Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis

Back in the Hawthorn classroom, the teacher passes out graham crackers. Most of the students don’t open the packages immediately, too engrossed in their games.

“That was so dumb!” says Jayla. She laughs and shakes her head at her own mistake as she lost her white queen to her opponent Candace’s black knight.

It’s notable that the 13 and 14 year olds playing chess in this classroom are girls. According to the U.S. Chess Federation, 20 percent of chess players below the age of 10 are female. By age 12, that percent drops to 15. By age 18, less than nine percent are women.


Charlotte Wilder

Perhaps the girls at Hawthorne represent hope for keeping more women involved in the game. Hannah says she likes chess because she wants to be challenged. Jasmine says she likes it because she’s competitive. And while Jayla and Candace say that the only people they play outside of school are boys, they always win.

“I don’t think they think a lot,” Jayla says. “Those dumb moves I just did? They do moves like that the whole game.”


Using chess to change lives has worked.

Francis O. Idehen, Jr. attended Deerfield, an elite boarding school in Massachusetts. He got his undergraduate degree at Yale. He then secured a coveted job on the Goldman Sachs trading desk, where he worked for a few years before earning his MBA at Harvard Business School. After a series of high-level jobs in the world of banking and corporate America, he was recently named the treasurer of the Exelon Corporation, the largest utility company in the nation. He lives with his wife and two kids in Chicago.

But before all of those degrees and impressive titles, he was a poor kid growing up in New York City. Idehen’s parents moved the family from Nigeria in the 1980s at the height of the crack epidemic in Harlem. Everywhere you went, you could find trouble, whether of your own volition or because you ended up on the wrong block at the wrong time.

We’ve made a change. A positive change. I attribute it directly to chess, and all of that happened because of Grandmaster Ashley.

“Being forced to brave these elements on the 8-block walk from home on 121st Street to school on 129th was like going to the jungle every day,” he says.

Idehen witnessed countless fights and robberies, and stabbings, shootings, and murders lurked around every corner. But what kept him going was knowing that, at lunchtime, he’d get to play chess under Ashley’s tutelage.

“He opened us up to an entire realm of life with a respect to analytical thinking that gave us an opportunity to escape, even if only for an hour a day, the dire circumstances we lived in,” Idehen says.

Idehen was on the first team of kids, called the Raging Rooks, that Ashley coached to the junior high national chess championship in 1991. Idehen said he was the worst one on the team, and almost didn’t make the cut. Ashley picked him over another kid who was at about the same skill-level, perhaps due to Idehen’s maturity. Or maybe because of his studious nature. Idehen isn’t sure what it was that made Ashley, then a young man, put him on the team. He’s just forever grateful that he did.

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 11.30.04 AM

Courtesy of Maurice Ashley

Idehen credits chess with his success almost entirely. He says the kind of thinking that the game fostered allowed him to deal with being an inner city kid on scholarship (which chess helped him secure) at a preppy boarding school. He used the lessons chess taught him to “devise a strategy for survival.” And when it comes to his career in business, Idehen says that his ability as a trader and high-level corporate executive is firmly rooted in his time as a chess player.

He isn’t the only one chess has helped. Many of Ashley’s students have gone on to attend top colleges and have successful careers like Idehen, and Ashley keeps in touch with most of them.

“He knew me when I was a boy,” Idehen says. “We’re talking 25 years ago. This is a man who knows me, in certain respects, better than my own family. He saw me, as a literal boy, grow into a man. I have a very fond place in my heart for him.”

Idehen makes sure his two boys play chess. He says they love the game.


The night before the championships, Ashley stands at a podium in a huge, lush greenhouse in the middle of a park in St. Louis. He’s just been inducted into the Chess Hall of Fame, and his picture now hangs on the same wall as Bobby Fischer’s. The honor is surreal.

“Who dreams that big?” he’d wondered aloud before the ceremony.

The crowd before him, a who’s-who of the chess world, listens raptly as he speaks after the bang of a gavel makes his induction official.

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 12.31.06 PM

Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis

Camera flashes go off and shutters click. Ashley pauses and looks out at those seated in front of him. He finds his family in one of the middle rows and smiles. He thanks his mother for the sacrifices she made, saying that now, as a parent himself, he understands how painful it must’ve been to leave her children behind, even though it was to make them a better life. He thanks his siblings for being champions in their own right — his sister Alicia has won five World Champion Boxer titles, and his brother Devon is a three-time World Champion Kickboxer. He thanks his kids — his daughter Nia graduated from Barnard this spring, and his son Jayden is 14 — for their love and support.

“Thank you to the committee for considering a young kid from Jamaica and Brooklyn, who is a rose that grew from the cracks in the concrete,” he says.

He pauses. There’s one last group of people he has to acknowledge, but they aren’t in the building. They’re hundreds, even thousands, of miles away, flung across cities and decades.

“And I’m here to thank all those kids that I’ve coached,” Ashley says. “All those roses growing from concrete as well, who just want a chance to live their passion and be great.”




Tiera Guinn is just 22 years old and she’s already working for NASA.

As a Rocket Structural Design and Analysis Engineer for the Space Launch System that aerospace company Boeing is building for NASA, Guinn designs and analyzes parts of a rocket that she said will be one of the biggest and most powerful in history.

Guinn, whose career trajectory seems like a sequel to the much-acclaimed “Hidden Figures” movie, has been aspiring to become an aerospace engineer since she was a child.

Her mom, who noticed her daughter’s skills from a young age, made sure to Guinn stayed sharp by putting her intelligence to use…at the supermarket.

“When [my mom and I] would go to the grocery store, she would get me to clip coupons [and] put it in my coupon organizer,” Guinn told WBRC News. “By the time we got to the register, I’d have to calculate the exact total, including tax. And I did that since I was six years old.”

“One day I saw a plane fly by and I just had this realization, ‘huh, I can design planes. I’m going to be an aerospace engineer,”’ Guinn said.

She chose all of her middle school classes accordingly and commuted an hour to go to the high school that would best prepare her for the future.

Now, Guinn will soon be graduating from MIT with a 5.0 and is clearly on a path to success. She said she’d advise young girls looking to follow in her footsteps to expect obstacles throughout their journey.

“You have to look forward to your dream and you can’t let anybody get in the way of it,” she said. “No matter how tough it may be, no matter how many tears you might cry, you have to keep pushing. And you have to understand that nothing comes easy. Keeping your eyes on the prize, you can succeed.”…-engineer-at-nasa_us_5894c59be4b0c1284f25c913




The Inventor Of The Super Soaker Talks About Turning Inventions Into Products And His Next Big Idea

[​IMG]Susan Adams, Forbes Staff
(courtesy Lonnie Johnson)

Lonnie Johnson and his blockbuster invention.

Lonnie Johnson, 67, invented one of the most successful toys of all time, the Super Soaker water gun. Introduced in 1990, it has racked up retail sales of more than $1 billion. He developed the toy after-hours while working as an engineer for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. A native of Mobile, ALA, he went to an all-black high school, earned a master’s in nuclear engineering from Tuskegee University and served in the U.S. Air Force, always tinkering with his own inventions on the side. Though he had no experience in the toy industry, he saw the promise of his super-powered water pistol and persuaded executives at Larami, a company that made knock-off toys, to produce his invention and pay him royalties. Since 1981, he has funded his own Atlanta-based engineering firm, Johnson Research, which has 25 employees and minimal revenue. He’s betting a share of his fortune on two devices that he believes can revolutionize electrical power generation and storage. In this interview, which has been edited and condensed, he talks about his hits and misses.

Susan Adams: What inspired you to be an inventor?

Lonnie Johnson: As far back as I can remember, I was interested in devices and how they worked. I took everything apart.

Adams: What was one of your earliest inventions?

Johnson: In 1968 when I was in high school I built a four-foot-tall remote control robot with pneumatic cylinders that operated his hands. My robot won first place at a science competition at the University of Alabama where my high school was the only African-American school represented. That was a huge moral victory.

Adams: Did you want to build a career as an inventor?

Johnson: After I graduated from Tuskegee with a masters in nuclear engineering, the draft was on so I signed up for ROTC. I figured if I had to go into the military, I’d rather go in as an officer.

Adams: Did you do any inventing while you were in the military?

Johnson: I worked on nuclear reactors and I was doing computer modeling of space launches. I wound up getting offered a job at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory where I invented a power supply mechanism for the Galileo space craft which is presently in orbit around Jupiter. My peers at the lab told me I couldn’t do that, so it was another moral victory when I did.

Adams: Do you think race played a role in your colleagues’ underestimating you?

Johnson: That’s the only explanation I can come up with.

Adams: What did you think of the movie “Hidden Figures”?

Johnson: I thought it was a great movie. I related to the ladies because when I was at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory I was the only African-American on the systems engineering team for Galileo.

Adams: How did you decide to go into business as an inventor?

Johnson: After the jet propulsion lab, I went back into the military, and worked on my own inventions on the side. I got my first patent in 1979 before I left the Air Force. I called it the Digital Distance Measuring Instrument. It used ones and zeros and dots and dashes and a magnifying lens to read binary-encoded information from a scale that was photographically reduced. It used the same kind of technology that’s used in CDs and DVDs.

Adams: You invented CD and DVD technology?

Johnson: I call it the big fish that got away. I didn’t pursue it. I was enjoying my day job. Inventing was more of a hobby. Also I thought that once I got a patent, the world would beat a path to my door. But nobody knocked. When I realized the technology was being commercialized, it didn’t dawn on me that it was something I should pursue.

Adams: How did you invent the Super Soaker?

Johnson: While I was at the Jet Propulsion lab, I was always tinkering. I was working on a new heat pump that used water instead of Freon because Freon is bad for the environment. I was experimenting with nozzles I’d made that shot a stream of water across the bathroom and I thought they’d make a good water gun. I was having trouble getting people to understand the hard science inventions I had like a heat pump or the digital measuring instrument. I thought the toy was something anyone could look at and appreciate.

Adams: How much research did you do on the toy industry?

Johnson: I got the idea in 1982 but I didn’t work on it until I was back in the military in Omaha and had a shop set up in my basement. I had a number of false starts.

Adams: What did you try that didn’t work?

Johnson: Initially I wanted to manufacture it myself and I talked to some companies that could handle that. But when they told me it would cost $200,000 to get the first 1,000 guns off the production line, I figured at $200 each, nobody was going to pay that much for a water gun. I didn’t understand that the tooling costs a lot but once you got the production line set up, you’d get the cost way down. I had spent my career in the military, so manufacturing and business were outside my bailiwick.

Adams: Where did you go from there?

Johnson: In 1987 I launched a successful toy, the Jammin Jet, powered by compressed air and water that would shoot out the back. It was made of Styrofoam and had a five-foot wingspan. A company called Entertech made it but an engineer inside the company put the rudder at an angle so the plane would fly in a circle. I tried to convince him not to do that. They manufactured 60,000 planes, spent $1 million in TV advertising and shipped planes with a design flaw. A kid would take the plane out of the box, and it would dive and break apart.

Adams: Did you lose a lot of money on that invention?

Johnson: I lost time and I didn’t get the income I was expecting.

Adams: How did you find a company to make the Super Soaker?

Johnson: It was 1989 and I’d written letters to companies including Hasbro, who dismissed the idea. Eventually I went to the Toy Fair and I met a guy in the hallway who said I should talk to the folks at Larami, a small company that made knock-off toys. At the fair, I managed to meet with someone there and he said, “If you’re ever in Philadelphia, come and see us and we’ll be happy to talk to you.” He said, “Don’t make a special trip.” So I went to Philadelphia and waited over an hour in the reception area before I got in to see someone. I took the gun out of my suitcase. They asked if it worked and I shot water across the conference room. They turned the prototype into the first Super Soaker.

Adams: Did it catch on with customers right away?

Johnson: The first year, the gun sold so well, they wanted to expand the product line. It took me a couple of weeks to design a model with two bottles that was more efficient. That was the Super Soaker 100.

Adams: How much money did you make from the Super Soaker?

Johnson: I can tell you that I received a royalty on sales, that the Super Soaker was the No. 1 selling toy in the world and that between 1992 and 1995, it topped $1 billion in sales. Because of the success of the Super Soaker, Hasbro bought Larami.

Adams: It’s been reported that you received $73 million from the settlement of a legal dispute over unpaid royalties from Hasbro.

Johnson: I settled for less than that. There was too much on the table to take a risk.

Adams: Are you still collecting royalties on the Super Soaker?

Johnson: No. The toy is still around but the patents have expired. In hindsight, one of the things I learned was the value of the brand. The Super Soaker name was the result of a discussion between myself and the president of Larami. If I’d understood the value of the brand, I would have put it in my contract, which was just a patent license.

Adams: Did you invent any other toys?

Johnson: I invented high performance nerf dart guns that were better than what Hasbro had on the market and they made a licensing deal with me on those.

Adams: What are you working on now?

Johnson: Energy technology. I’ve invented a new type of engine that converts heat directly into electricity with no moving mechanical parts. It’s called the Johnson Thermo-Electrochemical Converter, the JTEC.

Adams: What sort of uses would it have?

Johnson: Anywhere you have an existing engine, you could use the device. Converting heat from the sun, converting body heat into electricity, waste heat from machinery.

Adams: Have you sold it to anyone?

Johnson: No, it’s still in the laboratory but we have several patents. I’ve talked to NASA about using the device to make their limited supply of plutonium stretch a lot further. One of the applications we’re looking at is using body heat to generate electricity. Imagine charging your cell phone from your body heat when you’re running or walking.

Adams: What else are you working on?

Johnson: My other invention is an all-ceramic battery. Existing batteries use liquid electrolytes. My battery uses glass as an electrolyte. We can hold between two and three times the energy that a lithium ion battery can. The idea is that the JTEC could convert heat from the sun to electricity and the battery could store the heat until you’re ready to use it. Solar power would be one application. You could also use it in nuclear power plants.

Adams: How are you financing these projects if you have no customers?

Johnson: Revenue from past successes. My business model is to take on really innovative, high-risk technical projects and solve them, and achieve breakthroughs. I want to bring the risk down to a level where it would be tolerable for companies. We own the intellectual property and we’re free to make whatever deal we feel is appropriate.

Adams: How much risk are you taking personally?

Johnson: The risk is higher than most people would be comfortable with. A lot of what I’m working on wouldn’t exist if I didn’t have my own resources.

Adams: Why are you willing to do take such a risk?

Johnson: One has to spend life in a meaningful way. It may be a long time before my project gets done because it will be a long time before someone else sees what I see.…n-failing-without-blame-or-fear/#34329dbb2439



The first African winner in Google’s annual coding competition is 370km (230 miles) from home, sitting outside his cousins’ house in the Cameroonian capital, Yaounde, because the government has cut off his hometown from the internet.

As cocks crow in the background, 17-year-old Nji Collins Gbah tells the BBC about the series of complex technical tasks he completed for Google between November and mid-January.

Nji had thrown himself into the contest, using knowledge gained from two years of learning how to code, mainly from online sources and books, as well as other skills he was picking up on the fly.

The prestigious Google Code-in is open to pre-university students worldwide between the ages of 13 and 17. This year more than 1,300 young people from 62 countries took part.

By the time entries closed, Nji had completed 20 tasks, covering all five categories set by Google. One task alone took a whole week to finish.

And then just a day after the deadline for final submissions, the internet went dead.

Nji lives in Bamenda in Cameroon’s North-West, a journey of about seven hours by road from the capital (according to Google).

It is an English-speaking region where there are long-held grievances about discrimination and what people see as the Francophone establishment’s failure to respect the status of English as an official language of Cameroon.

In recent months, disgruntlement has escalated into street protests and strikes by lawyers and teachers.





A 10-Year-Old Boy From Texas Just Invented a Device to Prevent Babies From Dying After Being Left In Hot Cars

Bishop Curry V was inspired to create the “Oasis” when a baby in his neighborhood died last summer after being left in a car.


A young Texas boy has invented something that every parent could use: a device to prevent infant hot car deaths.

Bishop Curry V is a 10-year-old fifth-grader at Melissa Ridge Intermediate School. He’s also the son of Bishop IV, an operational excellence manager and process engineer who works at Toyota Financial Services in Plano, Texas. Bishop’s dad knows better than most how cars work when left in direct heat and understands how infants can unknowingly be left behind in their parents’ vehicles. “Sometimes babies fall asleep and they’re really quiet, so if you’re rushing home from work or you’re rushing to the grocery store, I could see how somebody could forget,” Curry IV told NBC.

The boy’s device is currently in the design stage – he has a clay prototype of it built – and already has a provisional patent. His invention would work by detecting whether a child was left in the car, then blowing cold air on the baby to prevent the child from overheating until the parents and/or authorities arrived. It attaches to a car seat (or an actual seat), and it also alerts police and parents by text that a child is trapped. Bishop calls it the “Oasis” and he and his family have already traveled to the Center for Child Injury Prevention Studies’ annual conference in Michigan to present the idea.


Bishop explained to his local NBC news station that he was driven to invent a solution after he heard about a baby dying in a hot minivan last year, just outside a home in Melissa, Texas. The Curry family resides in nearby McKinney.

The infant’s death literally and figuratively hit close to home for Bishop, who has a 1-year-old sister of his own. “I heard about babies dying in car seats and they could have grown up to be somebody important,” the middle-schooler told Toyota, who was informed of the invention by Bishop’s proud dad. “It makes me pretty upset.” The Curry family has also set up a GoFundMe page to raise the money needed to get Bishop’s invention patented and move into the manufacturing stage.

Each year, approximately 37 children die (on average) of heat-related deaths after being left inside vehicles. It’s a serious problem and research has shown that it can happen to any parent – it’s not just an issue for so-called “forgetful” moms and dads. With Toyota’s involvement, hopefully Bishop’s device (or one like it) will become standard issue for any parent of young children.…1b1d6a31e81/a-10-year-old-boy-from-texas.html

Gofund me page:



Robert Smith:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *