K-12 Instructional Activity Guide

Page 8 - State Invent Iowa Competition

What Makes a Good Invention?

Invent Iowa Rubric
  1. Is your problem significant?
  2. Is your invention really a new idea?
  3. Is your invention your own idea?
  4. Does your invention satisfy the need or want you identified?
  5. Is your invention workable?
  6. Does your invention efficiently solve your problem?
  7. Is your invention well built?
  8. Are the benefits of your invention significant?
  9. Do you have a complete journal or log that clearly describes every step you took in developing, researching, planning, drawing, and building your invention?
  10. Does the drawing of your invention show:
    • what your invention looks like?
    • how it works?
    • all the parts of your invention, with each part labeled?
  11. Is your model or prototype well constructed?
  12. Can you clearly describe the steps you used in thinking about and developing your invention?
  13. Did people other than you only do work on your invention that was unsafe or too difficult for you to do?

back to the top

Rules for Invent Iowa State Invention Convention


Invent Iowa is open to all students in grades K-12. All students in grades K-12 from public, nonpublic, home schools, after school programs, or students who are working independently, are eligible to submit an invention entry to Invent Iowa for the State Competition. Inventions can be entered independently or through a school program. Students in grades K-12 may have the opportunity to participate in local conventions (at participating schools), but participating in a local convention is not a prerequisite for submitting an invention entry to the State Competition. Students always have the option to participate in the Invent Iowa State Competition on an independent basis.


Step 1: Complete the online registration by selecting the Online Registration button on the registration page. Payment options are listed on the second screen.

Step 2: Print the last page of the online registration form. Be sure to have a parent/ guardian signature.

Step 3: Complete the two-page Competition Entry Form. Refer to the Invent Iowa Rubric in preparing the form. Be sure the Competition Entry Form has a parent/guardian signature.

Step 4: Print the Media Waiver Form. Be sure the form has a parent/guardian's signature.

Step 5: Prepare a copy of the inventor’s log or notebook for submission. (This copy will not be returned; do not send the original. Materials will not be returned to the students.)

Step 6: Prepare registration payment, if not done online. $20.00/student (not per invention)

Step 7: Send the signed, online registration form, two page, Parent-Signed Competition Entry Form, Parent-Signed Media Waiver Form for each student,a copy of the journal/log and payment (if applicable) to INVENT IOWA, BELIN-BLANK CENTER, 600 BLANK HONORS CENTER, IOWA CITY, IA 52242.


Each year, inventions must be a completely new product or a significant new application of an existing product. The invention must be the original work of the student(s). Although younger inventors may receive adult assistance with power tools in constructing the model, prototype, or display, all creative design and problem-solving activities associated with the invention must reflect the original work of the student(s).


Display boards can be created for the local Invention Convention, if one is held. Display boards are not a requirement for entry into the State Invent Iowa Competition. However, display boards are required for students who are selected to compete at a higher level. These students are required to create a 2-3 minute video which outlines the invention process. The display board should be used as a guide during their video presentation. (See How to Make Your Invention Display Board)


Invited students will give a BRIEF video presentation. (2-3 minutes) Using their board as a guide, they will identify the problem, explain the process of developing the invention, discuss how the invention works to solve the problem, and give a demonstration of how the invention works.

Invent Iowa Rubric

Criteria for evaluation:

  • the student has identified a need or want indicating an authentic issue to be addressed by the invention
  • the student has demonstrated that his/her invention will successfully address this issue
  • the student has demonstrated that his/her invention involves a creative, new idea
  • the student's presentation and log reflect his/her own work and understanding of the invention process
  • the invention design and model/prototype/diagram show appropriate use of materials, as well as evidence that the invention will work
  • the quality of the invention and the supporting display reflect careful preparation by the student in support of his/her invention

back to the top

How to Make Your Invention Display Board

Use foam core board, poster board, heavy cardboard, wood, pegboard, particle board, cork board, or other suitable material.

Make the display board free-standing. You can do this by cutting and taping three pieces of cardboard together, folding lighter-weight boards into thirds, or attaching some sort of reinforcement to the backs of heavier boards.

Make sure your display board fits easily into the space allowed for your invention convention and still allows plenty of room for your invention model or prototype.

Your display board should include the following sections:

  • Title of your invention
  • Problem
  • Solution
  • How it works
  • Diagram of your invention with labels explaining parts
  • Photos of invention in use
  • Proof of Uniqueness (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office plus 3 related businesses)
  • Benefits (EX: saves time, saves money, increases safety, improves health, assists physically challenged individuals, helps the environment, increases convenience, provides entertainment)
  • Name(s) of inventors

Other things you might decide to include are:

  • graphs, pictures, magazine and newspaper clippings that relate to your invention
  • a jingle, song, or poem about your invention
  • results of any surveys and/or research you did involving your invention

Make sure your display is neatly arranged and lettered -- press-on letters, stenciled letters, and computer signs work well.

Have fun with your display board -- let the artist in you show through!

back to the top

A Guide for Convention Judges

Invent Iowa is a comprehensive, statewide program developed to assist Iowa's educators in promoting the invention process as part of their regular kindergarten through twelfth-grade curriculum. This program was initiated in 1987 through the support of state political, business, and educational leaders in response to the future of rapidly expanding technology and the reported decline in American inventiveness in relation to other nations.

Invent Iowa supports educators in teaching creative-thinking and problem-solving skills associated with the invention process. As a means of teaching these skills, students are encouraged to identify a real-world need or interest and develop their own invention which successfully solves this problem. Students who participate in the program have the opportunity to display their inventions at their local schools and possibility, at the State Invent Iowa Scholarship Competition.

The purpose of evaluating inventions is to provide the students with constructive feedback on ways in which they might improve their work. Evaluation is essential if students are to learn from the competition experience.

Consistent with the goal of Invent Iowa, the role of the evaluators is to provide an educational experience for the students. Evaluators review inventions using a set of established criteria. Part of the evaluation process involves giving a numerical score for each area of evaluation.

We believe Invent Iowa has the potential to make a significant contribution to the education of Iowa students. The invention process involves so many skills which will be of increasing importance in the next century: critical thinking, problem solving, mechanical ability, and communication. Your contribution to the Invent Iowa program by serving as an evaluator will help to develop these skills in our young inventors. Thank you for your time and support.

back to the top

Invention Feedback Ideas

  • You certainly have identified a real problem.
  • This looks like a workable solution.
  • You have developed an interesting and new idea.
  • I can tell that you put a lot of time and effort into your invention.
  • Keep on inventing!
  • I think you are on the right track.
  • You did an excellent job of explaining your invention.
  • What a clever idea.
  • I'll bet you are proud of this idea.
  • I'm sold on this idea!
  • I couldn't have done a better job myself.
  • You did a good job of helping me to understand your ideas.
  • I'm glad that you didn't give up when ...
  • You made some good choices of materials for this project.
  • I'm convinced that your project would work.
  • You did an excellent job of researching similar inventions.
  • I was very impressed with your presentation.
  • I can tell that you spent a lot of time on your invention.
  • You did a careful job of constructing your invention.
  • I'd love to see what you invent next!
  • You have so many good ideas!
  • I bet that this invention makes your (your family's, intended audience's) life easier.
  • What a marvelous idea!
  • I'm glad to see that you did much of the work by yourself.
  • I believe that your invention will work well.
  • I wish I had thought of this idea.
  • Your display and diagrams were neatly done.
  • I can tell that you really care about your work.
  • I enjoyed hearing about your invention.
  • I'm glad you found a solution to this problem.
  • This invention could really help a lot of people.
  • You seem to work well together.
  • It sounds like you had fun making this invention.
  • What an innovative idea -- this is a real improvement!
  • Your explanation was clear and easy to understand.
  • I'm glad to see that you're thinking about the problems of others.

back to the top

State Invent Iowa Scholarship Competition

If selected to compete at the State Invent Iowa Scholarship Competition, inventions must be self-contained and displays must fit on a table provided at the convention. No ribbons, trophies, certificates, or other items received in previous competitions are permitted to be displayed. Batteries and electrical power are allowed, but no running water or other additional resources can be provided at the convention center. Inventions must be safe and must present no danger to those attending the competition. Toxic or volatile materials, high-pressure gases, and open flames or heating elements are specifically prohibited. Inventions that involve these items should include only a representative model and photographs. In addition, no invention resembling a firearm in appearance or action will be accepted. Students should remain near their display during the competition, as well as listen to other nearby student presenters. Parents, family members and teachers are allowed to observe and listen to the evaluator’s interviews, but must avoid participating in the process.

If you have any further questions, please contact the Invent Iowa state office: (319) 335-6148 or (800) 336-6463.

back to the top

next: Other Resources