Nicknamed “Lady Edison” for her profound inventive output, National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) Inductee Beulah Louise Henry dedicated herself to improving the everyday lives of people. Widely considered the most prolific woman inventor of the 1920s, throughout her career she produced over 100 inventions and earned 49 United States patents.
Among her many inventions was the “protograph,” a typographical machine that was able to produce an original and four typewritten copies without the need of carbon paper; a bobbinless lockstitch sewing machine; an umbrella designed with interchangeable snap-on covers; a “Kiddie Clock,” which helped children learn how to tell time; the “Miss Illusion” doll whose eyes changed colors after pressing a button; and continuously attached envelopes that allowed for both original and return mailings.
Inducted into NIHF in 2006 for “various inventions for daily use,” Henry embraced the prototyping process and was said to have had a complete image of each finished product in her mind before hiring a model maker to construct a prototype of the device she envisioned.
Camp Invention Embraces Prototyping
Inspired by revolutionary NIHF Inductees like Henry, our expert education team applies a 20-month development process to build curricula for programs including Camp Invention®, which emphasize prototyping activities. Because all inventions begin as ideas, by first brainstorming and then making their ideas real by building a prototype out of upcycled or everyday household materials, children who participate in Camp Invention follow the same invention processes used by our Inductees!
According to research from Opportunity Insights, the earlier a child is exposed to innovation, the more likely they will innovate as they age. This innovative mindset is especially important when it comes to preparing students to excel in a world that continues to grow more complex by the day. While the technical aspects of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are important to develop, what’s arguably even more important is for students to cultivate 21st-century skills like teamwork, problem solving and creativity. Prototyping achieves this by giving students the agency to create on their own terms and solve problems through the act of discovery.