Science teacher's inventions help students learn in hands-on way

BREMEN — When George Cox, of Bremen, was teaching science to junior and senior high school students, he often felt frustrated that he couldn’t find ways to illustrate concepts to his students. To teach Newton’s first and second laws of motion, Cox used to drop an eight pound shot put and a softball out of an upstairs window at Bremen High School. The idea was to prove that the objects would hit the ground at the same time, even though they were different weights.
“I had to stop doing that, because I was creating (marks) in the lawn,” said Cox. “The school custodian made me stop.”
Several years before his retirement from teaching in 2010, Cox decided he would invent devices to help his students learn science.
“I wanted something that students could use to do experiments themselves,” explained Cox.
His first invention was “Galileo’s Gravity Drop.” The plastic device suction cups to a table or other smooth surface and releases an aluminum ball and a steel ball at the same time. Cox originally made the device out of wood, but got feedback from educational companies that it would be better in plastic. Now, “Galileo’s Gravity Drop” and two other devices of Cox’s are sold in teacher resource catalogs.
“I’ve sold about 1,200 of (Galileo’s Gravity Drop),” said Cox. “I designed it for junior high (students), but high schools and colleges are also buying them.”
He continued, adding: “I used to buy things from these companies (as a teacher) and now I’m selling to them. It’s pretty cool.”
Cox will be traveling to the National Science Teacher’s Association (NSTA) National Conference this weekend to present his products. Another of his inventions, the “Mystery Springs” sell the best when people can see what it does, said Cox. The piece of metal, made from nitinol (a combination of nickel and titanium) has “shape memory.” At a certain temperature, the metal will “spring” back to its original shape.
“I found that (product) did not sell well in a catalog,” explained Cox. “But every teacher I ever showed it to bought one.”
Cox also invented the “Box of Volts,” a large bucket with organized trays of electrical equipment inside. Cox said he noticed that teachers shy away from doing electrical experiments because of all the small pieces involved. His bucket contains enough materials for 28 students, and Cox pointed out that nothing in the kit will ever need to be replaced.
“You put everything in the bucket, then you put the bucket away until you are ready to study electricity again,” said Cox.
Although retired, Cox still substitutes in Bremen regularly. He said that he kept track of his students over the years, and figures that he has impacted the lives of 8,531 Marshall County children. With his science inventions, he hopes to continue helping students in a more indirect way.
“I will never make a fortune (doing this), but I make enough to keep doing it, and that’s fine,” said Cox.