Longtime science professor and Hudson resident Nicholas D. Frankovits, 71, is young inventor Mark Leschinsky’s hero — so much so that Leschinsky was inspired to feature Frankovits in an award-winning documentary.
Frankovits is also the founder and director of the Akron-based National Museum of Education and executive director of the National Gallery for America’s Young Inventors.
"I decided to make a documentary about him because I wanted to say thank you to Mr. Frankovits for creating the National Museum of Education that has programs for students of all ages," said Leschinsky, 11, of Ramapo Ridge Middle School in Mahwah, N.J. "He really inspired me, as well as my brother and sister, to invent and believe in ourselves."
Leschinsky first met Frankovits in 2014 in Akron after Leschinsky’s invention — a protective suit with a disinfectant that kills surface viruses — won a competition sponsored by the NME.
Leschinsky’s documentary, "The Lighthouse," which can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2aY9h3_CtE&t, details Frankovits’ teaching philosophy, honed at the secondary level and the University of Akron and Cleveland State University.
Leschinsky calls Frankovits a "hero" for helping students convert inventions into profitable businesses. At least 85 of his students have developed products with national sales.
Frankovits, a national lecturer who has served as adviser and mentor to more than 240 student-winners in state, national and international science competitions, says inventions are all about passion and interest.
"It has everything to do with curiosity and motivation," Frankovits said.
The best inventors are young like Mark Leschinsky, who haven't narrowed their view of what is possible, he said.
"It is amazing what young people can do if you don't corral them in," Frankovits said. "Let them breathe a little bit. A wide open view allows youngsters to spread their wings."
Frankovits also employs a pedagogy that spotlights unruly students, allowing them to work on an invention to solve a problem that interests them.
"I've used it as a means to get unruly students going in the right direction," Frankovits said. "Ask them what they're interested in and develop an idea around their interest. From there, you have your best friend. They turn around [their behavior] and are role models for the rest of class. I was amazed by the change."
Frankovits said he discovered in early 1970 that if he brought out an actual working model of a concept, students learned faster and were less confused about difficult concepts.
"Can you come up with an idea that would explain it better?" Frankovits challenged his students. "We were inventing what we were learning."
Leschinsky’s "The Lighthouse" featuring Frankovits has won four awards: Best Documentary Short Award at Christian Family Film Festival in New York; "An Award of Recognition for the Young Filmmaker" at the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards Film Festival in California; second place at "My Hero International Film Festival" in California; and "The Best Short Film made by a Young Filmmaker" award at American Filmatic Arts Awards Film Festival in New York City.
Leschinsky’s parents, Bernice, a dentist, and Boris, a cardiology devices inventor, encourage their children to learn at any age. His siblings, Gary, 9, is an avid chess player and Barbara, 8, is a gymnast. All three of the children were tested as gifted.
"Never underestimate your child because he or she is too young," Bernice said. "You'd be surprised to find out how much even young children can achieve if you encourage and support them."