Joe's Kinetic Balls

Joe's Kinetic Balls

Larry Neal Gowdy

Copyright ©2005

In 1965 an eleven year old boy named Joe Smitherman constructed a kinetics project for use in the Ridgecrest Elementary school science fair in Amarillo, Texas. The project consisted of five metallic balls hung from strings attached to a wooden cradle. Pulling back ball number one, allowing it to swing and hit the other balls, resulted in only ball number five on the other end bouncing up. Pulling back and dropping two balls caused two balls on the other end to bounce forward.

Joe's project would not have been allowed into the science fair if a similar design had been known to exist previously. Students, teachers, and businessmen alike were entertained with Joe's unique project. Joe's kinetic balls display won the school science fair and later won the Texas Panhandle Science Fair as well.

Joe died September 10, 1966 due to a fall in a canyon. About a year later a new desk-top toy was placed on the market that was designed with very similar appearances as Joe's science fair project, but no known credit for the kinetic ball design was ever given to Joe.

A number of adults are known to disbelieve that a young person can have the mental capacity for creativeness. Joe's kinetic balls design is one example of many that proves otherwise.