At the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF), we know that all great innovations begin as ideas. For this reason, brainstorming and prototyping play an essential role in all our education programs. Though your child’s hodgepodge of cardboard, masking tape and popsicle sticks might not look like much right now, the skills they are developing through the act of hands-on problem solving are invaluable — and they are the same traits that our NIHF Inductees continue to use throughout their professional lives.
Our free STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) activity Be A Solver offers a great opportunity to build creative problem-solving skills. Here, participants are encouraged to embark on a scavenger hunt around their house to gather a collection of upcycled materials for building a prototype of an invention that can make their lives easier. Throughout their prototyping, children make use of the SPARK method, asking themselves the following questions to continuously improve their ideas:
- Strengths: What are this invention’s pluses? What is good about it? What is working?
- Problems: What are this invention’s problems? What are its weaknesses? What isn’t working?
- Areas to grow: What are some new ideas (additions/subtractions/changes) that I hadn’t thought of before?
- Reflect: How might these growth areas be applied to what I have learned through testing?
- Keep solving: Can I generate five to 10 solutions to my invention’s top two problems, then rebuild and retest?
Intellectual Property for Everyone
The invisible force that protects inventions from theft is known as intellectual property (IP). Everything from our favorite brands to forms of entertainment have laws protecting them from unauthorized use, and therefore give individuals the incentive to create.
Though IP can sometimes come across as confusing or intimidating, one way children can explore these ideas is to create a trademark for one of their prototypes. Trademarks are words, phrases, symbols and designs used to both identify and promote different products and services. Popular examples include catchy slogans and famous logos like the McDonald’s Golden Arches and Nike’s swoosh. However, trademarks can also be applied to other surprising elements including (but not limited to):
- Colors, such as Tiffany & Co.’s “Tiffany Blue,” or the “Barbie Pink” trademarked by Mattel
- Product shapes, like the Coca-Cola bottle
- Sounds, like NBC’s three-tone chime
- Scents, such as the distinctive fragrance of Play-Doh
Developing their very own trademark for their prototypes is one small but effective way for children to both explore IP and build a sense of pride and ownership over their creations.
Check Out Our Blog for More STEM Learning Tips
For more ways you can use invention education to help your child develop a passion for creativity and invention, we invite you to visit our blog.