2016 Invent It Challenge

It’s Time to Face the Sharks in the Invent It Challenge

The 2016 Spark!Lab Invent It Challenge is coming to a close. This year, kids ages 5 to 21 were asked 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. This week we will focus on the final step: Sell It!


I’m not usually a fan of family television watching, but there is one show I always enjoy watching as a family: Shark Tank.


Here’s the thing: while it can be obvious that they contrive some controversial dialogue between the Sharks in order to ramp up the drama, overall I like how accountable the presenters have to be for their inventions. They can’t just waltz in and say “Here’s a great idea, now give me money.” They have to answer hard-hitting questions, show their research, demonstrate needs in the market, and more. Basically, they have to following the same exact steps as the entrants in the Invent It Challenge, and the presentation to the Sharks is the final step: Selling it.


Now, as evidenced in my previous post, I’m fully supportive of innovation and coming up with new inventions or solutions, but I also believe you need to put some work behind it and make it a reality. Good ideas are useless if you don’t do something with them. Watching the inventors “sell” their idea is a major reason my family likes this show. As we watch, we discuss the pros and cons of each proposal, the need in the market – and more importantly, how relevant it is to us (after all, if *WE* are not going to use it, we certainly won’t fund it with our hypothetical millions). We also discuss whether we think the presenter knows his or her stuff. Finally, we make predictions on whether the project will get funded.


In this last week of the Invent It Challenge, it’s time for your favorite inventor to “sell” their project to our judges. While they aren’t “Sharks,” the judges are looking to hear the details of what makes this invention special. Prior to presenting to our judges, your inventor might want to create a “fact sheet” or written pitch about his or her invention that contains all the information they want to showcase. Remind them to answer key questions such as: What health problem does the invention solve? How is it different from other inventions? Who is the “target audience”? Who should use your invention? How does it work? Finally, have them explain how their invention will lead to a healthier future!


Here are a few more tips for our inventors: Speak clearly and slowly. Try to create your video in a quiet place with no background noise, and remember that no one has as much knowledge of this new invention as you do. Finally, if you need some additional dos and donts, why not watch an episode or two of Shark Tank to perfect your product and your pitch. Once you’re satisfied with the presentation, hit the submit button! You’re done and it’s time for our judges to have a look at all your hard work.


Cricket Media Mama is not one of the Invent It judges. This is a good thing as she often enjoys impersonating her ‘favorite’ Shark – Mr. Fantastic – and no kid needs to hear “Impress me in 90 seconds or you’re dead to me.”