The 2016 Spark!Lab Invent It Challenge is finally off and running. This year, kids ages 5 to 21 need to identify a real-world health problem and come up with a solution to the problem. Each entry must follow the seven step invention process spelled out by our partner, the Smithsonian’s Spark!Lab. For the next 7 weeks or so, we are going to be highlighting each step in the Spark!Lab’s seven-step process with the goal of helping parents help their children make the most of this learning opportunity and achieve optimum results.
Now it’s time for your child to get his or her ideas out of their heads and into some form that can be viewed by other people. This sketch stage will be fun for a lot of kids. It’s the chance to put their ideas down on paper and to see an outline of how their project might come together.
The Sketching Stage
Sketches don’t have to mean paper and pencil, although there is certainly nothing wrong with the age old method that worked for the likes of Galileo and Einstein. If drawing doesn’t appeal, there are plenty of apps and computer programs made to help inventors make schematic drawings. Two popular ones that are relatively easy for kids are Scheme-It and Smart Draw. Both of these allow the user to input the major parts of their idea in the form of general shapes, label the components, and show how the pieces might fit together.
An Invent It judge from previous years offers this advice to participants: “You may want to make several sketches of your invention – from the front, side, looking down from above, or from the inside to show how it works. Be sure to label your sketches to explain how the various parts and pieces function.” If they have questions while they are working, your child can even ask questions of past participants. These ambassadors, who hail from all over the world, are always happy to provide advice for participants in each stage of development.
If your child still needs some inspiration during the sketch stage, have him check out My Crazy Inventions Sketchbook: 50 Awesome Drawing Activities for Young Inventors. This inspiring book is jam-packed with amazing drawings showing all sorts of real inventions that seem too weird to work combined with plenty of inspiration to get kids’ minds going, and extra room for kids to add their own invention ideas.
Finally, remind your young inventor that the sketch doesn’t have to be perfect. Stick figures are OK! The point of the sketch is to let other people see what is in the inventor’s mind. Don’t stress the details. It’s the big picture that really counts.
Missed learning about the first two Invent It! 2016 steps?