Go ahead and get your kids thinking about a real world environmental issue because the Invent It! Challenge is back and better than ever! This 6th annual challenge, a partnership between Cricket Media and the Smithsonian Institution’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation is launching on January 17, 2017 and kids from ages 5 to 21 are invited to participate.
To enter the Invent It! Challenge, kids can work individually or in groups to identify a real-world environmental issue and come up with a planet-friendly solution to the problem. Each invention must demonstrate all seven of the Smithsonian’s Spark!Lab Key Steps of the Invention Process. Have your child review the steps below to get a sense for exactly what goes into a successful invention.
Step One: Think it
Invention is all about solving problems, so your first step is to identify an environmental problem you want to work on. Look around you – what environmental problems do you see in your community? Ask friends, teachers, and family members about environmental issues that are important to them. Make a list, and choose the one that you want to help solve.
Step Two: Explore it
Whatever problem you identify, you should know you’re probably not the first inventor to try to solve it! Do some research to learn how others have addressed the problem. What do you like about their solutions, and what do you think you can improve? Think about what your invention will do, who it will be for, and how it will be different from any of the other inventions you read about.”
Step Three: Sketch it
Once you have a basic plan for your invention, make some simple sketches of your idea to show how it might work. Sketching helps you get the idea out of your head and onto paper where you can really see it.
Step Four: Create it
For many inventors, this is the most fun part of the invention process! This is where you create a prototype, or model, of your invention. Using your sketches as a guide, build a prototype. Creating your prototype will help make your ideas visible to others.
Step Five: Try it
Once your prototype is finished, ask friends, teachers, parents, and neighbors to try it or review it. What suggestions do they have for making your invention better?
Step Six: Tweak it
Tweak it Using the feedback you got in the Try It step, identify ways you can improve your invention. Keep working on your idea!
Step Seven: Sell it
Once you’ve created your invention, you want people to start using it! How will you convince others to try your invention? Think about your target audience. Then create a “fact sheet” or a video or a written pitch about your invention. What health problem does it solve? Who should actually use it? How does it work? How is it different from other inventions? Answer these questions to explain how your invention will lead to a healthier environmental future!
Parents, you should also have your child check out the videos submitted by previous winners to get a good idea of how other kids took on the Invent It! Challenge. And be sure to look for more blog posts here featuring tips, inspiration, and information that might make the process even more enjoyable and productive.
Also, be sure to check out the Invent It! Challenge homepage on January 17, 2016 to view the Scoring Guide for this contest and the Official Rules which set forth entry details, deadlines, and eligibility requirements.
We can’t wait to see the real environmental challenges our young inventors solve this year. We know we’ve got some of the world’s best minds on the case.