I don’t know about you, but I can’t tell you how many times I have thought to myself “Golly-gee-whiz, if only someone made something that would . . ., that would make life so much easier!” Each year, people try to invent thousands of things to make people’s lives easier. Starting today, you are going to be joining them! Here is your chance to create something the world has never seen before! Strap into your seats, this is going to be a wild ride!
This year you will be taking part in an amazing, but unique and different, type of science fair called “The Invention Convention.
” Like the science fair you are familiar with, this convention will require you to focus on the scientific method and the process of inquiry and discovery. This project will be carried out over the coming months and will require you to use, above all else, the creativity that I know each of you have. I cannot emphasize this enough: I advise you to begin work now as this project will serve as a major part your science grade.
The overall goals of this project are as follows:
Let’s first take a look at what an invention is before we discuss the specifics of this project any further.
So, what is an invention? Basically, an invention is anything that is new and that serves a purpose. Some examples of inventions are the airplane, the automobile, the hair dryer, the toothbrush, the television, and just about everything else that you can think of! Inventions don’t have to be complex or “extraordinary”; think of the previous example of the toothbrush!
The requirements for this project are as follows:
Now, let’s take a more detailed look at each of the project requirements listed above.
Come up with an invention: This will be the hardest part of the entire project. This will require you to ask yourself “What is something that people would want that doesn’t already exist?” Your invention must solve a problem. Your invention must serve a purpose. Your invention can be anything that solves a real problem or makes life easier. It will be something that no one has ever thought of before. It cannot be purchased in a store or found in a book. Sometimes an invention is an improvement to an object that was already invented (take the electric toothbrush, for example), in which case the improvements must be entirely original. In deciding what you want to invent, it is often easier to think about various groups of individuals (ex. teens, the elderly, adults, handicapped persons, even pets!) and then try to think of something that would make life easier for those individuals.
I encourage you to not spend more than $25 for your invention. Remember, some of the most popular inventions are the most simple (ex. stairs for pets to get onto a bed, a remote control holder that hangs off of a chair arm, luggage with wheels). I want to quickly point out that you may use other inventions alongside your own. For instance, one of the most remarkable inventions I have seen a student create at an invention convention utilized hair-dryers; the student created a large PVC pipe frame, about six-feet tall, that had nearly a dozen hair-dryers mounted all around it. After exiting the shower, there was an easily accessible button on the frame that required a simple press to turn on his invention. Then, as you can guess, all of the hair-dryers turned on and dried the person off! This is the perfect example of modifying and improving an invention that had already been invented to suit a need.
On the day of the convention, judges will evaluate your inventions based on factors that are not affected by the cost of your project. In other words, a student who spends $50 to build an invention does not necessarily have an advantage over a student who spends only $10. The most critical part of this step is to remember that you are going to have to build your invention later on; therefore, do not choose an invention that you will not be able to build! While the goal of this project is to try to get people to purchase your invention, nothing will actually be for sale.
Sketch and describe your invention in detail: Once you have decided what you are going to build, you are going to create a detailed (and very neat/use a ruler) sketch of how your invention works that should fill up a piece of regular printer/copier paper (no larger!). In your sketch, all parts, materials, and measurements should be clearly labeled. In addition, you will staple a typed one long paragraph, minimum 7 well-written sentences, design idea description to your sketch. Please also include a creative name for your product. Your idea paper will tell me the purpose of your invention, why you chose to build this invention, and how you will build it.
Create a working prototype for your invention: Once you have decided what your invention is and you have neatly sketched it, you are going to build it. This will require time and effort, but should be fun. My only stipulations are that your invention be safe (no open flames, no hazardous materials, and no animals may be involved without my sole permission). Obviously, you may build it in separate pieces and assemble it in the library/my classroom on the morning of the convention, but it must work and be fully assembled at that time. You are not required to build it alone: you may ask for help from friends and family members. However, please give credit somewhere in your log or photo-log of who you received help from. Remember, though, that this is your project J Again, your invention must work on the day of the convention.
Create a commercial display for your invention: What would be the point of inventing something if you are the only person in the world who could benefit from it? Your goal is to convince me (and, most importantly, the judges on the day of the convention) why someone should be willing to buy your invention. You will need to create a display of some sort that is basically an advertisement of your invention. You should include graphics, photos, a selling price, and anything else that will separate your product from all of the others. I suggest using a simple collapsible project display board as these are by far the easiest to transport and display. Remember: the neater and more colorful your display is, the more likely it will be that people will be drawn to your invention.
Keep an inventor’s log: This log will be your diary about the invention process. Your log must include at least 15 entries that are at least one large paragraph (5-7 sentences) in length. They should be dated and take you through the entire process. For example, you might have an entry during the brainstorming process, one during the sketching process, two during the building process, etc. You may have multiple entries during any process if it seems most appropriate for your particular invention. Most importantly, I want to see your failures and successes documented; if you try to build your invention one particular way but fail, I want to read about it. Remember, the scientific method is all about trial and error! All entries should be typed and spell-checked!
Keep a photo-log of all of your steps: Throughout all of the steps leading to the convention, you should keep a photo-log. You should have pictures of yourself working on your project’s various steps and include them neatly in your work binder. You must have at least 15 pictures in all. You must include a picture of your advertising display and of your final perfect invention (these do count as two of your 15 pictures) somewhere in your log. Each picture should have a brief caption describing what you are doing in the picture or what the picture is of. The majority of the pictures need to have you working in them!
Create a materials/cost sheet: This step should be exceedingly simple. You should neatly create a page that lists each and every material your invention required and how much it costs. For example, “Three 100 watt light bulbs=$2.50′. This will be typed.
Keep all work in a binder, scrapbook, bound folder, etc: Your inventor’s log, photo-log, materials/cost sheet, invention sketch and proposal (step 2), final draft of your speech, and any other relevant materials should be neatly placed in a binder or scrapbook of some sort. Scrapbooks generally seem to be the most personal and appropriate; if you do decide to use a scrapbook, you may neatly decorate it with stickers, decorated edges, etc. Regardless of what you use, you should include a table of contents, title page, and dividers of some sort that separate the various steps of the project. Again, everything that can be typed should be typed.
Prepare a speech: You should prepare a speech and a demonstration that explains your invention’s purpose, usefulness, and why someone should purchase your invention. You must explain what problem you are trying to solve and who you are trying to sell your invention to! Your speech is crucial: if you fail to demonstrate why someone should be interested in your invention, you will lose their interest. You should be energetic and genuinely believe that your invention is worth all of the effort you have put into it. Remember, people invent things in order to sell them and that is what you are doing!
In my opinion, the cheesier the speech, the better it will be! I love watching infomercials with people trying to sell me products with plenty of enthusiasm. You will give your speech many times on the day of the convention, so you must memorize it. You will be asked questions by teachers, students, judges, as well as myself so be prepared to answer just about anything that relates to your invention! Notice that I have not provided you with a specific time limit for your speech; some of you will need three minutes, some of you will need five minutes. My only stipulation is that your speech not exceed seven minutes as there will be many inventions for everyone to see. Keep your speeches short and sweet but also surprising and stupendous! Also, I would prefer that you dress professional during the convention as no one has ever bought a serious product from someone wearing a Bart Simpson tee-shirt and swim trunks J
Present your invention on the day of the convention: On the day of the convention, judges, teachers, and students will tour the library and my classroom marveling at your inventions. You may set up your invention booth at 7:30am on the day of the convention in a location that I will assign you. You must bring your invention as well as your commercial display. Your booth should be creative, exciting, professional, and should genuinely excite people about the prospect of purchasing your invention. Any additional tables or props that you may need are your responsibility to bring. By 3:15, the spaces must be completely cleared out! Cleanup and setup are your responsibility.
Your invention will be judged by random judges based on the questions below this paragraph. Each question will receive 10, 8, 6, 4, or 2 points based on how well your invention, presentation, and adherence to guidelines are rated by the judges. Winners will receive 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place certificates after I have evaluated all of the judge’s forms as well as my own rubrics.
Originality of Invention: Is the invention novel (new) and/or different from other existing inventions? Did the inventor come up with a unique, unusual, or extremely clever solution to a problem? Did the inventor recognize and select a particularly unusual or difficult problem? Is the idea one that the student could have developed? How does the invention compare to existing items that might solve the same problem?
Attention to Detail: How well is it made? Is the design efficient or is it cumbersome? Was thought given to overall design, including ease of use and the choice of appropriate materials?
Purpose and Practicality: Why did the inventor decide on this invention? Does the invention solve the stated problem? Does it work? Does the design do the intended use in a cheaper, quicker, or easier manner? Will someone benefit from this invention (general public, people with handicaps, the elderly, children, only the inventor)? Will the invention help/hurt the environment? Is the invention generally useful?
Presentation: Would you, or someone you know, be willing to purchase this product? Is the display board visually appealing? Does the inventor speak clearly? Does the inventor have eye contact with his/her audience? Does the inventor answer questions appropriately?
Adherence to Guidelines (I will judge this): How well did the student document the process used in inventing? Is the log complete? Is the problem clearly stated? What resources were used? Was credit given to others who helped? Were the steps taken to get from idea to completed project clearly described, including failures, reasons for choice of materials, and resources? What was done to find out if the idea is unique?