Invention Convention: How Do I Get Started?

If this is your first time doing the Invention Convention, it may seem daunting.  You might be thinking, “But everything has already been invented!”  Don’t worry!  This page is for you.

Let’s pretend we’re having a conversation.  I’ll ask you some questions and we’ll get the ideas flowing.

USE YOUR STUDENT JOURNAL TO TAKE YOU THROUGH THESE STEPS AND RECORD YOUR PROGRESS.

 

STEP 1: IDENTIFY PROBLEMS

The first thing you want to do is brainstorm a list of problems.  What are things that bother you?  What tasks do you have to do that you wish would could be done faster or easier?  What things do you wish were more organized or efficient?

Are you stuck trying to come up with problems?  Try making a list of places that you go.  Then think of problems that you would have there.  For example:

  • Home
  • Grocery Store
  • School
  • Work (maybe this would be where your parents work)

Or try making a list of activities and then think of problems you notice doing those activities.  For example:

  • Traveling
  • Cooking
  • Exercising
  • Homework
  • Cleaning
  • Gardening/Yard work

These are problems that I’ve thought of.  Maybe you can think of an invention to help solve one of them:

  • The winter weather is really an issue.  It’s really cold.  The snow and salt gets on your boots and makes a mess when you track it in the house.  It’s coldest by the windows and near the doors of the house.  The wind messes up your hair and my lips get chapped.
  • Cleaning the house is a lot of work.  Some places are hard to reach to get them clean, but they still get dusty and grimy.  And it’s hard to carry around all the stuff you need to clean: bottle of cleaner, rags, scrubbers, gloves, etc.
  • If you have pets you know that pet hair and odor can be a problem.
  • At school I am always trying to stay more organized.  There’s so much stuff you need to carry around at school: papers, pens, eraser, glue, etc. and you don’t always have your backpack or locker handy.
  • When you go grocery shopping it’s too easy to forget the things you need to buy.  I make lists, but sometimes the list I make at home is not with me when I drive to the store.

So do you get the idea?  Everybody has stuff that frustrates them or that they don’t like to do.  But instead of just complaining or dealing with it, now you are trying to think of ways to make things better.  When you make a THING to fix the problem you are making an invention.

STEP 2: BRAINSTORM SOLUTIONS

Look at one of the problems on your list.  What could you make that might help you solve that problem (or at least make it less of a problem)?

Let’s consider the invention of the clipboard.  Someone thought it was frustrating to try and write when they weren’t sitting at a table.  Maybe they wanted to sit on the couch and watch TV while they did their homework, but the paper got wrinkled and the pencil kept poking holes in the paper.  So they thought about making a hard surface to write on.  And then they thought of a way to hold the paper on the board.  Ta-Da!  They had an idea and created the clipboard.

STEP 3: MAKE SURE IT’S A NEW THING

An invention is a new thing.  For example, the person who invented the clipboard was the first person to make one.  If I make clipboard that is very pretty drawing pictures on it, all I’ve done is decorate someone else’s invention.

That’s not to say that you can’t improve something and it is different enough to be considered a new thing.  For example, have you seen the traveling hair brushes that fold?  Someone considered the problems of carrying a brush in your purse.  The regular ones are too big and they get tangled in the other stuff inside your purse.  The folding hair brush is so different it can be considered a new thing.

Where are you going to look to make sure your invention is new?  Try looking in stores and on the internet.  Remember, if it already exists you are not inventing it.

STEP 4: MAKE YOUR PROTOTYPE

Now that you have an idea for something that will solve a problem, you need to make it.  The prototype needs to work.  Make it and try using it to solve your problem.  Does it work?  How can you improve it?  Keep working on it until it works to help your problem.

Use everyday/recycled materials.  I’m not expecting you to spend a lot of money.  Materials students have used:

  • cardboard, cereal boxes are a great source of easy to cut cardboard
  • paper towel or toilet paper rolls
  • cut a gallon milk jug and use the plastic
  • brads
  • twist ties
  • rubber bands
  • pipe cleaners
  • netting from orange bags
  • the cylinders of oatmeal containers
  • plastic lids
  • Ziploc bags
  • ribbon
  • cloth
  • bubble wrap recycled from packages

I think you get the idea.  It depends on what you are trying to make.  If I have materials I will share them.  Just ask and I may have it.

STEP 5: MAKE YOUR BOARD AND PLAN YOUR PRESENTATION

The board and what you will say in your presentation to the judges needs to explain your problem and show how your invention solves that problem.  There is no right way to make your board, but I would suggest you  have:

Title (What do you call your invention?)

  • Problem
  • How it Works
  • Research/Making Improvements

STEP 6: THE INVENTION CONVENTION

You will need to bring

Be sure to dress for success.  You will be trying to impress the judges, so look your best.

Practice what you will say.  Be ready to demonstrate how your invention works and explain how your invention is a good solution to a real problem.

 

Need inspiration?  Watch episodes of Shark Tank.  This TV show has people pitching their inventions, hoping to get someone to invest in their business.

 

 

 

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