Recently, the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation partnered with ePals, an online network for K-12 students, parents, and teachers, on an Invention Challenge. We asked students to use up to five common household items to invent a new product that will make their daily life easier, more fun or more efficient. They described their invention either in a 1-minute video, a 3-slide PowerPoint presentation, or a 250-word document with a digital image uploaded to the ePals Global Community.
Judging the ePals Invention Challenge was one of the most inspiring, rewarding (not to mention fun) things I’ve done at work in recent months. Along with two of my Lemelson Center colleagues, I judged more than 50 contest entries for “originality, effectiveness, creativity, and technical quality” and awarded points in each of these categories. Entries came from students in kindergarten through high school in six different countries.
The inventions ranged from fun and whimsical (the Dog Vacuum) to smart and practical (the Cycle Umbrella). But no matter what the idea, all of the projects showed a high level of creative thought by the students and demonstrated their ability to think critically, problem solve, collaborate with others, and communicate their ideas. Opportunities like the Invention Challenge allow students to practice these 21st century skills and apply them to problems and challenges in the classroom and beyond. Today, the Dog Vacuum. Tomorrow, who knows?
Tricia Edwards is an education specialist for the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation.