On inventing

An invention

can either be a:

(1) device (apparatus, machine e.g. telephone, pencil, TV., skateboard) or

(2) procedure (method, process, such as the steps to coat a thin sheet of plastic, such as tape, or post-em notes )

which has the following two characteristics:

(1) New (novel)

(2) Useful

Inventions are found through study and experimentation, and is to be distinguished from a discovery, which requires exploration, or a chance encounter.

Problem formulation

When ever something annoys you and becomes a problem, you have the potential of creating a new invention! For example, ask your students what annoys them about a pencil (shoe, glasses, chopsticks). Show them a typical pencil like this:

image of an ugly pencil

Some answers might include:

Then think of the ways to improve upon the pencil, and you will find many in the store: such as pencils with

Turn on the creative thinking!

When "brainstorming" for new ideas and new solutions, it is extremely important not criticize. When one student starts talking about his or her invention, the other students are sure to chime in, saying, oh that won't work, or that's a stupid idea. This must be squelched immediately. Be nonjudgemental, and withhold all judgement at this step of the process. Otherwise, other students will not volunteer anything for fear of being criticized. Absolutely no idea is bad!!!! You can even suggest the worst or most ridiculous ideas, and say its OK.< P> You can set the stage by telling the students that they all work for a company that makes new products. All companies must invent new products in order to survive because if they don't someone else will. So the students can first play the role of the "invention" or new products department (usually known as research and development).

Now use your critical thinking skills!

After you have come up with a list of new ideas for development, the longer, the better, and these have been written on the board, you say, now the class becomes the managers, the top brass, the president, the financial officers, and must evaluate the new ideas. This means, only the best ideas can be worked on because the company has limited resources. Which idea gets worked on depends on many things, on how good the idea is, how long would it take to develop it, what is its market potential, how much money can be made, how difficult is it to manufacture etc. So the class can evaluate each of the idea based on one or all of these themes. Let's say, they can be the marketing department, and one of the sales people say yes they can market it, or no they cannot, and why. This teaches critical thinking skills. The inventors can elect to defend their idea or not, or someone else can champion it.

So, what are we waiting for? Start inventing!


Inventing a new pencil
Inventing a new eraser
Invention home page
Last updated 24 October 1995

Copyright © 1995 by Duen Hsi Yen, All rights reserved.

E-mail: yen@noogenesis.com