K-12 Instructional Activity Guide

Page 5 - Researching an Invention

Let's Research an Invention
How Do I Research My Invention?
Process for Facilitating a Student Invention
And the Winner is...

Let's Research An Invention

Today we are going to use library skills to learn about an invention and about its inventor. Once you have chosen an invention, use books, magazines, encyclopedias, almanacs and other resources in your school library to locate as many of the items below as you can.



Date the invention was patented:

Why was this invention needed?

How does the invention work?

Is the invention used today? If yes, how? If not, why?

Has the invention undergone any changes since it was invented? If yes, how has it changed?

List the references you used below:

  1. Title:__________________________ Author:______________ Copyright date: ________
  2. Title:__________________________ Author:______________ Copyright date: ________
  3. Title:__________________________ Author:______________ Copyright date: ________
  4. Title:__________________________ Author:______________ Copyright date: ________
  5. Title:__________________________ Author:______________ Copyright date: ________

If there is time, share your information with a partner, a small group of friends or your class!

back to the top

How Do I Research My Invention?

Research is gathering facts and information so that you can approach a subject with as much knowledge as possible. Doing research at several points in the inventing process will help you become a successful inventor.

There are many people and resources waiting to help you get started on your invention research. One of the best places to start is at your school or local library. There you can read about inventors, how they solve problems, and how their ideas become inventions.

Talk to your librarian or media specialist to see what special resources might be available to help you with your project. In addition to visiting your library, you can also start your own collection of models, magazines, and invention books.

Another great way to get started is by visiting a nearby museum. There you will probably find examples of famous inventions on display. Museums of history or science and technology are great sources of information on how inventions have changed our lives. Many even have working models to show you how things work.

Talk to as many experts as you can in your field of interest. Try to find some inventors to talk to. Remember to ask your parents and teachers for help if you need it along the way.

Once you think you have a new idea, research it carefully to see if your idea already exists. Check toy departments, hardware stores, catalogues, department stores, libraries, etc. You can also visit uspto.gov and uspto.gov/go/kids to see if your invention already exists. You may also do research to see how much your invention will cost to produce, and if your invention idea is marketable--that is, will people buy it?

Whatever research you do, make sure to record your steps in your inventor's journal or log. Good luck!

*** Adapted from the Invent, America! 1993 Student Guide

back to the top

Process For Facilitating a Student Invention Survey

Conference With Student
Demonstrate/describe your invention
Purpose or objective
Origin of invention idea
Users/applications of invention
What is it that you want to ask others about your invention?
Generate many, varied questions
Focus on two or three most important ones (note choice of verbs; use specific nouns instead of words like "it" or "this")
Think of possible survey responses to the questions (Example: yes, no, undecided)
Development of the Questionnaire
Conference With Student
Finalize questionnaire
Review format
Agree on respondents (Example: children, adults, multi-age groups)
Review details for carrying out the survey
Determine size of survey sample
Specify procedures for doing the survey
Agree on survey completion date
Conduct the Survey
Work Session With Student
Compile the data
Determine totals
Check for accuracy (Example: sample size and numbers)
Analyze survey data
Formulate conclusions
Compare data from groups of respondents (Example: children and adults)
Pose further questions
Determine the format for publishing survey data

***Kratz, Jean. (1994). Used with permission of the author.

back to the top

And The Winner Is...

Your Solution Becomes Your Invention!

Now it is time to use your creative thinking skills to select your best inventive idea to turn into your own invention.

Look at your three ideas and super solutions.

Ask yourself the following questions about each one - then decide!

 Problem and Solution
  #1 #2 #3
Is my idea really new?      
Is my idea interesting?      
Is my idea practical?      
Is it as simple as possible?      
Is it safe?      
Will it be helpful to me or to others?      
Can I make a model of it with
materials that are available?
Can it actually be constructed?      
Will people really use my invention?
(survey friends, family and neighbors to see!)
Will most people who can use my
invention be able to afford to buy it?

back to the top

next: "Building a Model or Prototype"