Lesson to Elementary Students on Inventing

Lesson for ages: 6-10
Please invite me to talk in your classroom!

The Invention Process:
1. One way to invent: Identify a problem.
2. Describe the problem and write it down. Example: “I’m uncomfortable from the seat belt strap in the car because it scratches my neck.” (This is an invention I came up with and researched.)
3. Brainstorm for a solution. (“Make a cover with padding for the strap.”)
4. Brainstorm other solutions. (Make different types of padding? Change seat belt straps in all cars?)
5. Record every step of the way in a notebook. Always date and sign the pages. Make records of everything. They are very useful. Stay organized.
6. Research the market. Look in stores, look in the patent database, look at similar concepts in other markets/product categories.
a. The patent database is easy to use now that it is online—www.uspto.gov. It is free. Just go to uspto.gov, find the patent or trademark search database, and type key words. You can learn a lot from reading other applications!
b. Research prices, materials, and costs for making your product
7. If no one else has built quite your idea and you think it’s worth pursuing, build and test your idea.
8. Refine your invention.
9. Write as much of your own patent as you can. Learn about how to write patents. I recommend that you use a lawyer, but you should understand as much as you can about your patent, your rights, how to make it strongest, how it really applies to what you really want to do, and how it doesn’t. You need to understand what others can do to get around your patent. You don’t want surprises after it’s submitted, so build the prototypes, study patent law, and write as much as you can on your own! I recommend the book, “Patent it Yourself” by Nolo Press.
10. Market your invention—go to relevant trade shows (walk shows before you exhibit), find representatives, sell at local Farmer’s Markets, create a website, and read other books to learn how to get the product to market.
Other ways to invent:
1. Combine old ideas in new ways—Use an invention from one field and apply it to another field. If there’s new voice technology that can be activated by touch, should you apply it to a door handle? Would you want to market this idea? (Would it be fun to record your voice—“please do not enter my room!” Will others want such a door handle that speaks when touched? Who might buy it? Who will not want such a product? off the minute someone will touch the door handle.)
2. Reverse questions—Instead of a floor that reacts to your shoes when you dance, make shoes that react to the floor, or a floor cover that reacts to the shoes. Or socks that react to the mat…
3. Simplify: The least steps to making a product, the better.
4. Improve existing products using new technology, simpler technology, or innovative concepts.
Once you have an invention—Should you pursue it?
1. Decide if it’s worth pursuing—is it marketable?
2. Can you earn from this idea? How many other people really would buy it? Where would you sell it to them—how would they find the product? Is there an affordable way to manufacture it? Would you really want to pursue this idea? How dedicated are you to the idea? Will you follow through? Is the idea worth patenting, or should you find other ways to protect it, or should you just try to sell it as is?
Research how to build your invention
1. Test and build your invention. First, create the design yourself using paper at home. You can cut and paste on your own. You will get great ideas from doing so.
2. Next, make very cheap prototypes from styrofoam. Or, you can cut a lot of doodles out of laser these days by sending the designs to someone with a laser machine. This is very inexpensive. You can even build products using 3d “printers” that can actually build something from plastic in a way that’s similar to a copy machine. The machines look like a little microwave, or a big refrigerator! These methods do not require that you make more than 1 of any one design. You can easily change the dimensions and try again. You can cut designs from any material, but plastic or wood are pretty affordable and will be good enough. The softer the object, the cheaper it is to cut the product. You and others will benefit from holding the invention in 3d.
3. Learn to describe your invention without revealing too much. You can always say what field it is in—a toy, for example. You can also describe what it does without saying how it does it—“ a means of connecting objects” for example. You need to get advice from others. You need to know how to talk about it without saying too much, unless they sign a nondisclosure form. You can usually trust most people like laser cutters, but you should ask them to keep your idea a secret and not to use your designs for other projects. You can also ask them to sign a simple nondisclosure agreement if you feel uncomfortable about the amount of information that you are sharing. Non disclosure agreements basically ask people not to tell others about your idea without your permission. There are a lot of free forms like that that you can personalize to describe your project and identify who you’re showing the project to.
Write the Patent:
Write your own patent as much as you can, even if you use a lawyer. You will have a stronger patent.
General Advice:
Always show your appreciation to those who help you!

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