This 90-Year-Old Engineer Uses SOLIDWORKS Everyday to Help Make the World a Better Place.
Longtime SolidBox customer Johnnie Floyd has an invention that can change the world. I called it a “paradigm shift” which he justifiably said is a cliché, but it really is. It’s a new way of approaching prescription eye wear. His invention, called Lnzwear, would eschew the existing labor-intensive process of matching a person with the right glasses. Better yet, the user wouldn’t even need to get a new pair of glasses every time his/her vision changes. Instead, each Lnzwear unit would have common optics that can be adjusted to meet the user’s needs. This means that each pair can be easily customized to each person, but also modified throughout the user’s life to accommodate changing vision. Pre- and post-eye surgery can be reduced from weeks to a couple of days.
Not Johnnie’s First Rodeo
It may sound ambitious, but this isn’t Johnnie’s first invention. Johnnie thinks of himself as Homo Fabian—a making man. He’s been using tools and making things since he was five years old and has had a paying job since he was eight. He was always curious and inventive, but he grew up in an environment where the word “engineer” was only associated with running a train. His mother had the foresight to enroll him in college engineering preparatory at N. R. Crozier Technical High School in Dallas, TX. There he was able to develop the skills needed for the jobs in the local economy. By 17, he was living independently and worked in a mail order accounting department. He then joined the Naval Air Reserve and was called to serve at Miramar Naval Auxiliary Air Station during the Korean Conflict. There he learned how to repair and maintain 3,500hp aircraft engines and was introduced to the squadron’s library of engineering courses by the Squadron’s Engineering Officer.
I longed to do something more creative and important.
He was released to inactive duty in 1953 and worked during that year on commercial aircraft. Johnnie says, “The work was repetitive and I longed to do something more creative and important.” Thankfully, the GI Bill enabled him to attend The University of Texas at Austin. He graduated in 1957 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Mechanical Engineering. He had crammed 148 credit hours into just three and a half years. “I was married with a son and serious as all get out,” says Johnnie.
Johnnie Begins Designing
With college behind him, Johnnie spent the next 35 years “bent over a drafting board designing.” In those days, a change in the weather would affect the drawings. He might come in on an especially humid day to find that the paper had changed size slightly and all the lines had been adjusted. “We better turn on the air conditioning,” he’d say in those moments.
While being “bent over a drafting board designing” may not sound very grand, the projects Johnnie worked on at the drafting board were. In 1965, he was named chief Engineering for the construction of the Harland J. Smith Telescope at McDonald Observatory—the third largest in the world at the time. During this period he earned a Master of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering with a Minor in Management. He also designed a Tokamak that University of Texas researchers used to study plasma. Later still designed six homopolar generators at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus for use in railgun research and massive rapid welding projects.
The Blood Shaker with Staying Power
The design that Johnnie thinks of as his biggest accomplishment might seem a bit more modest at first blush. “For sheer usefulness in the world, I am most proud of the blood shaker and weight monitors used in the blood collection industry,” Johnnie says. The first generation was on the market for 20 years and the second was on the market for 21 years after that. He was able to have a positive effect on the healthcare of millions of people during those combined 41 years. “Few products stay on the market that long and I am justly proud of both of these.”
Always Ready to Learn and Adapt
A contributing factor to Johnnie’s success as an engineer is the fact that he’s always been an early adopter. He was quick to ditch the slide rule for an HP-35 (the world’s first scientific pocket calculator) as soon as they came out in 1972. In fact, he still uses the HP-35’s successor, the HP-32SII, to this day even though it was discontinued in 2002.
Johnnie began using his first 3D CAD program in 1985. “I met Michael Leesly just after he started MLC CAD Systems and purchased CADKEY,” says Johnnie. “It was only wire frame, but a great improvement over pencil on paper. I would print off the wire frame image for my customer and color it in so the product could be visualized by the client.” Johnnie began using SOLIDWORKS in 1996—just a year after its initial release—and it’s the CAD solution he uses to this day.
SolidBox Provides Hardware and Training
He has also always been willing to invest in quality computer hardware to get the job done. He was running CADKEY on a $10,000 computer in the 1980’s. We met him when he bought a computer from us in 2013. “I became aware of SolidBox when SolidBox moved to Salt Lake City and I needed a bigger, faster computer,” says Johnnie. He’s actually still using that computer to this day (thanks in part to our refresh program which helped smooth the transition from Windows 7 to Windows 10 a couple years ago).
Johnnie is constantly learning. Whenever he runs into a problem that he can’t figure out in SOLIDWORKS, he turns to us for our project-based training services. With our project-based approach, Johnnie learns new solid-modeling skills while using a dataset that actually means something to him rather than something arbitrary like a chair or a computer mouse.
No Man Is an Island
Johnnies insists that he couldn’t have accomplished all he has without the support of so many others in his life. “Despite my belief that an individual can make a difference, I was able to participate in many projects of my long career because I had the support and encouragement of my family, teachers, the companies that hired me, the clients that sought my expertise, the skilled people that associated with me, and the makers and purveyors of SOLIDWORKS. My sincere thanks for their contributions,” says Johnnie.
Will You Take the Torch?
At the age of 90 and with 58 years of experience as a Professional Engineer, Johnnie is still working hard to bring Lnzwear to market. However, he’s also looking to pass the torch to a new younger team, the next generation. That’s where you, dear reader, come in. Are you interested in running with Johnnie’s invention? It’s going to require an entrepreneur with a technical background and deep pockets (or at least excellent fundraising skills). He has the patents, SOLIDWORKS designs, and proof of concept models. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in tackling, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll put you in touch with Johnnie.