Finding Your Inner Inventor

The teachers of Long Island’s Longwood Middle School have been working on bringing out the inner inventor in each of their students. To help with that, they invited Inventor Coach and Teq’s own Director of Inside Sales, Brian Fried, to discuss the invention process with the students.

“How many of you are inventors?” That was the question Brian Fried posed to the students at the beginning of his talk.

Fried, who has had numerous inventions of his own sold on QVC, explained that his inventions always began with a thought to “fix” a problem or to remedy a situation that would “annoy” him. He then encouraged the students to do some inventing of their own. “How could you improve this already created product?”  Hands went up instantly to lend Brian some advice. While one student came up with a catchy name, others decided to alter the design, color, and size. Some students thought to add material to enhance the product, whereas other students considered taking material away. The ideas flew through the crowd rapidly and easily.

Fried talking with the students of Longwood Middle School about the invention process.

3D Printing Solutions

Before 3D printers, Fried sketched his models with paper and pen. He explained to the students that he would have to buy material and build samples on his own. The time, money, and effort it took to create just one model was disappointing and even once a model or prototype was built, changes had to be made to perfect it. Now, more time, money, and effort was needed.

With 3D Printing, inventors have an easier and more efficient way to begin the innovation process. 3D Printing is simply the use of a 3D printer in conjunction with a modeling or CAD design tool/software. With a student’s idea in mind, software like Tinkercad can help develop the design. To learn more about getting started with Tinkercad, click here.

At the end of the day, Fried once again asked the students, “How many of you are inventors?” With their ideas for new products, designs to improve previously made products, and new knowledge about Tinkercad and other 3D software programs, every student confidently answered that they too were an inventor.

Innovation Station

Prior to Fried’s visit, some of the students at Longwood were already working on a MESTRACT-funded project that seamlessly integrated with the school’s 3D Printer. The project has students adhering to very specific guidelines called the Innovation Station. 

If you are interested in conducting an invention-unit with your students, take a look at Longwood’s plan below:

Step 1 – Introduction

  • Students will be introduced to the inventive process through video conferencing with an inventor.
  • Next, students will have to select a product and, through the process of innovation, alter the product so it would be accessible to a person with a physical handicap.
  • Teachers will create an environment in which students will feel comfortable to experiment and collaborate in partnerships.

Step 2 – Product Concept  

  • Students will research and examine various handicapping conditions such as MS, cerebral palsy, TBI paralysis, Spinal Cord injuries, etc. and how their associated physical limitations affect product use by people affected.
  • Teachers will provide students with a variety of resources from which to gather research, including guest speaker(s) who experience such limitations.
  • Students will work in pairs (5th with 6th-grade students) to develop a way to innovate a product to meet the needs of a handicapped person.
  • Students will present the proposed new product and its capabilities through written descriptions, drawings, prototypes, etc.
  • Teachers will encourage student inquiry and foster perseverance as student teams attempt to design ways to solve an authentic problem.

Step 3 – Innovation

  • Students will research concepts and ideas to ascertain the unique nature of the product.
    • Is the product new to the world or an incremental innovation?
    • Uniqueness?
    • Social benefit?
    • How will the innovation help accessibility for persons with disabilities?
  • Teachers will instruct students on the use of technology to create designs and prototypes.
  • Students will have access to Tinkercad.com and/or Sketchup pro 2017 to create 3D models of their innovations.

Step 4 – Value

  • Students will reflect on their work and evaluate its success with guiding questions.
    • What is the value to the customer?
    • How will they use it?
    • Any customer research to support the product’s claims?
  • At this point, middle school students will present their ideas to a panel of high school students from Ms. Lang’s technology class/robotics club.
    • This collaboration should help the middle school students solidify their ideas and/or make changes.

Step 5 – Market

  • Students will investigate how to identify their market and ways to bring the product to them.
    • What is the size of the market?
    • Expected sales on a yearly basis?
    • Cost to produce?
      • Price?
      • Profits?

Step 6 – Promotion

  • Students will investigate advertising and create at least one method of marketing: brochure, website, radio broadcast with jingle, slideshow, etc.
    • What are the sales channels?
    • How will it be marketed and promoted?
  • Teachers will guide students through this artistic process, providing feedback on student work.

Step 7 – Presentation

  • The project will culminate with an Innovation Station presentation.
    • Students will display their innovation to their parents, peers, and community members during a day-long presentation.
    • Teachers will provide the space for students to set up their displays.

Step 8 – Evaluation

The success of this project will be measured using a process approach. Teachers and students will evaluate the work throughout each of the phases of the project, focusing on learning rather than only the product outcome. The project will be evaluated based on the group’s  ability to:

  • learn from ‘failures’ (as well as from ‘successes’)
  • identify implications for the future
  • and identify action to be taken based upon what has been learned.

Good luck to all the students at Longwood Middle School! We here at Teq are excited to see your new inventions!