Daily Video

September 13, 2019

Student inventors solve real-world problems at Eurekafest



Directions: Read the summary, watch the video above and answer the discussion questions.


Summary: This past June, student inventors from across the country attended Lemelson-MIT’s Eurekafest, a week-long celebration of the power of invention, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. Lemelson-MIT gets its name from the world-renowned university where it is located and Jerome Lemelson, an engineer and inventor who held more than 600 patents.

Each of the 15 “InvenTeams,” as they are called, had received a grant of up to $10,000 the previous school year. For a whole school year, students designed and redesigned their invention to get it just right. At Eurekafest, teams get to meet students from other schools, participate in a host of invention activities and showcase their invention. During the presentations, students explained step-by-step how their invention works and how it solves a real problem.

So, how does inventing work? Students engage with the ‘invention process,” which involves identifying a problem, brainstorming solutions, designing a prototype, testing it out before redesigning and finally sharing the idea with stakeholders and pitching it to potential investors.

Students at R2i2 (Richland Two Institute of Innovation) in Columbia, South Carolina, have a patent pending through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on their invention which provides solar energy to small appliances. The R2i2 team came up with the idea by working with students at a school in Senegal whose teacher had reached out to them for assistance about the school’s photocopying machine. If electricity in the building goes out, the copier keeps working through its solar battery charge. Students in Senegal play a key role in the device’s success: “The module was designed using sustainable materials and locally accessible materials so it can be assembled, replicated, and repaired by the students of Sare Bilaly themselves,” according to R2i2’s InvenTeam page.

Students of all ages can be inventors, according to Doug Scott, engineering teacher at Hopkinton High School in Hopkinton, Mass. Scott advises new Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam teachers after his own students received a Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam award in 2013. A few years later, their invention was awarded U.S. Patent US9511833B2. You can look it up here to find out what they invented!


Discussion questions:


1) Essential question: Should more schools have invention programs to teach students how they can make a difference in the world?


2) What role does empathy play in how inventors go about their work?


3) If given a full school year to work on a project with your classmates, what invention would you like to create?


4) What do you think were the different individual roles involved in both teams’ inventions? Why is it a good skill to be able to work well with others, especially in inventing?


5) Media literacy: Who else would you like to have heard from in the story? What questions would you ask them?


Extension activities:

  1. Check out PBS NewsHour Extra’s invention education lesson series: 12 lesson plans teaching the power of invention. All lessons are based on video news stories from the NewsHour. Share your students’ inventions @NewsHourExtra using #PBSInvention
  2. To learn more about invention education and find resources for your class, click on the lightbulb below or go to inventioneducation.org.
Image result for what is invention education inventioneducation.org

Inventioneducation.org is a website full of invention education lessons for all ages.

3. For a deeper look into invention, check out NewsHour’s series “Innovation & Invention.” Scroll through the video and text stories. What stories catch your eye? Pick one and read/watch it. What do you think was the most challenging part of the invention process? Why? How could the innovation or invention make people’s lives better?



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