Crossing the Finish Line: Finalizing Your Submission

Hello future inventors!  My name is Jeff Brodie, and I am the Deputy Director of the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation.  On behalf of my colleagues here at the Center, I want to congratulate everyone participating in the 2018 Spark!Lab Dr. InBae Yoon Invent It Challenge. We are excited to learn about your new inventions that will help solve problems related to natural disaster preparation and relief.

As a historian, I study inventors and their work and share their stories with the public.  Though I am very interested in the invention itself and how that invention impacts our lives, I also care very deeply about understanding the process the inventor followed to create his or her new invention. There are a lot of questions I like to ask:  What inspired the inventor to solve that particular problem?  How did the inventor begin thinking about possible solutions to the problem?  Why did the inventor elect to pursue one idea rather than another?  What were the biggest challenges the inventor faced in creating the invention?  How did he or she overcome these obstacles?  When creating a prototype of the invention, what worked well and what didn’t work at all?  How did the inventor tweak the prototype to improve its performance?  And finally, what did others think about the invention?  Did they like it? Did they use it?

Unfortunately, inventors are often so busy making and creating; they do not often record their thinking or save early prototypes of their work. This is very frustrating to those of us who seek to understand how inventors work and how inventions are created.  Without this information, we can’t share the complete stories of these inventors with the public, and current inventors can’t learn from the knowledge and experiences of earlier inventors who worked on similar problems.

We want to make sure that your stories are recorded and saved for history, and we want to make sure that future inventors can learn from your efforts.  This is why recording your work and documenting how you created your new invention is such an important part of your Invent It Challenge submission.  (Hint: documenting and showing how you engaged with the seven steps of the invention process is critical to any potential winning entry!)

It is really important to not only tell us what you invented – we want you to show us how you created it!  Here are some tips for helping you make your submission as complete and thorough as possible.

Think It – You selected a specific problem related to natural disasters to solve.  Why was it important for you to solve that problem? Inventors are inspired and motivated to create for all kinds of reasons – what’s yours? What other problems did you consider?  Did you brainstorm your ideas and write them down?  When you tell other people about your project, how do you describe or explain the problem to them?  Make sure that you include information in your submission that clearly states and explains the problem in a way that is easy for others to understand.  Including your written notes or a video recording stating and explaining the problem are two ways to communicate this information.

Explore it – If you identified a problem that affects many people you were probably not the first inventor to try to solve it! What research did you do to learn how others have addressed the problem before you? What did you like about their solutions and what did you think you could improve? Think about your invention – what does it do, who will use it, and how is it different from any of the other inventions you read about?  In your submission, tell us about your experiences exploring your problem and how that information helped you create your own invention.

Sketch It –Initial sketches of a proposed invention are the first step of transforming an idea into an invention and should be included in your submission.  These do not have to be perfect or artistic! These sketches document your early thoughts about the invention and show how your ideas changed and improved through the invention process.  Be sure to label your sketches to explain how the various parts and pieces of your invention work.  Multiple sketches showing different perspectives help show your ideas more fully. Past winners have sketched by hand or with computer assistance. Either way is great!

A sketch of a device to measure feet and shoe size.
In 1925, inventor Charles F. Brannock sketched his invention for a device to measure feet and shoe size.

Create It – For many inventors, this step of building a prototype or model of your invention is the most fun of the invention process! It is also an important step that allows you to take your concept and put it into three-dimensional form. You may have built your prototype using all kinds of materials including items in your recycling bin and scraps from other projects.  That’s great.  Remember, the prototype doesn’t have to be perfect or even work! But it is important for the prototype to be as complete as possible, with labeled parts, and showing how the parts function. A video, audio, or written explanation are all really good ways to document your work and share it with others in the submission.

Kids building prototypes of inventions at Smithsonian's Spark!Lab.
Visitors in Spark!Lab use simple materials to prototype invention challenges.

Try It – Once an inventor creates a prototype the next step is to try it out and test how it works.  How did you test your prototype?  Did you share it with friends, family members, and teachers?  Asking others who are experts in the subject area often provide important ideas to improve your invention. Also, asking the people who will use your invention to test it is a great way to get feedback on how well the prototype works. What did they like? What suggestions did they have for making your invention better? Be sure to write down what they said about your invention and include it in your submission. If you tested it more than once, tell us about that, too. Past young inventors have shared their “try it” results as data tables, quotes from testers/interviews and even as videos of the testing process. In your presentation, show that you put time into testing and gathering feedback.

Visitors to the Spark!Lab use a wind tunnel invention.
Young inventors use a wind tunnel to try and test their flying inventions.

Tweak It – This is perhaps the most critical step in the invention process, but one that is easily overlooked! How did you use the feedback you received from the “Try it” step to improve your invention? How did you modify the design or change the materials to make it better? Did you add new parts to your invention or take something away to make it simpler? Many inventors try and tweak and then try again to keep improving their idea until they get it just the way they want it! Tell us or show us what you did.  How did “tweaking” your invention based on your test results and feedback improve your invention?

“Sell” It –  Once you’ve created an invention, you want people to start using it! A great invention will not have great impact if people don’t know about it and use it. Your submission should include a compelling “pitch” that will convince other people to use your invention.  Think about your target audience and how will you convince them to try your invention? Then create a “fact sheet,” a video, or a written pitch about your invention that clearly states and explains why your invention is important and useful. What natural disaster preparation or relief problem does it help to solve? Who should use it? How does it work? How is it different from other inventions? Answer these questions to explain how your invention will help people affected by natural disasters and include them in your submission!

We wish everyone the best as you prepare your final submissions. You may want to have your friends, family, and teachers review your submissions and ask them if they can identify the seven steps of the invention process in your submission.  This is a good way to make sure that your information is clearly stated. Again, congratulations on your hard work and creative ideas!

Take a moment and think of an inventor or invention that is important to your daily life – maybe the computer, the stove, the bicycle, a toy, medicine, a backpack, water fountain, etc.  If you could ask the inventor any question about how they created their invention or any step of the invention process, who would you ask and what would you want to know?  Please post your response and include the invention and what you would ask its inventor about his or her invention process below.

0 thoughts on “Crossing the Finish Line: Finalizing Your Submission

  1. Hi Ariana, this is the 3-4 class! We love your invention! It’s wonderful. We voted and are continuing to vote. We fully support you. Good luck!

  2. Awesome inventors with insights into future technology.

    Very creative young students who can develop innovative
    products for the benefit of mankind.

  3. Hi im from the CATASTROPHE CARE KIT FOR KIDS GROUP and congratulations for winning

  4. Hi im from the CATASTROPHE CARE KIT FOR KIDS GROUP and congragulations for winning

    p.s. i like your idea.

  5. Hi im from the CATASTROPHE CARE KIT FOR KIDS GROUP and congragulations for winning

  6. Hi im from the CATASTROPHE CARE KIT FOR KIDS GROUP and congragulations for winning

  7. Hi im from the CATASTROPHE CARE KIT FOR KIDS GROUP and congragulations for winning

  8. Great invention. I love that you created it with only a little help. You must really love your pets!!
    < o)
    < o)

  9. Before submitting your project, make sure you review your presentation. There might be a few last-minute changes you could make or add. You could’ve forgotten something and wanted to write some more on it, or you could fix something. Whatever it is, reviewing your presentation one last time is really important. It’s your final push to success.
    With the things you learned while doing this challenge, you could also apply them to other situations, like competing in a competition. You could compete ferociously, but in a polite, friendly way. Or when you’re working with others, you would know to be respectful to other people’s opinions/ideas and how to add on to them, agree with them, or even disagree with them.
    Anything and everything causes something to the universe, good or bad, it’s just up to you to make it count.

  10. Be sure to review your presentation before submitting!

    Participating in the Invent It Challenge is a very interesting experience. This challenge helps stretch your creativity and enhances your critical thinking skills. This will help you everywhere in life.

  11. Some tips for your presentation:
    1. Include only a few words or sentences on each slide. That’s the most important thing to an excellent presentation. Presentations are supposed to go fast, but also make a mark in the audience’s minds. Too many words/sentences will need a lot of time to read it all. That’s why you need to make it interesting and plan it out first, then grasping the main sentence of the planned writing you just wrote.
    2.Make sure your presentation is fun and interesting to read, or else others might not want to continue reading the rest of your presentation. Just like in writing, you need to hook your audience/readers with interesting, unique stuff.
    3.Always plan your presentation first before actually typing it in. If not, you might include some pretty crazy information in your slides, and I’m sure you don’t want that. You’ll waste a lot of time just trying to delete all that information that you don’t need.
    4. Don’t copy or take any photographed pictures taken by any of your friends without permission. That’s very bad, and would definitely make the photographer of that/those pictures very upset.
    5. Add images to make your presentation more clear and easier to visualize. You can either take some pictures from the Internet(with permission), ask friends/colleagues if you could use their pictures, or even illustrate your own pictures(you need that in the Draw It step) and put them in your slides. After that, your presentation will be as colorful as can be.

  12. 1. When you try it, make sure you invention follows the criteria listed for a good invention, and what you hoped your invention would do
    2. When you tweak it, you want to solve the things that happened unexpectedly (which are the problems you want to solve). Keep in mind that you can keep some of the things that happened unexpectedly, some mistakes are good and some are bad.
    3. You can ask a teacher or a friend for more feedback, and they even might tell you how to solve some problems. Teamwork is important.

  13. 1. (RESPOND AND RESCUE)How can you make something that can help pets in need?
    2. (IMMEDIATE RELIEF)Is your invention portable and easy to use in states of emergency?

  14. For the Try It step, you should try out the prototype of the invention that you made. This is an important step because it tells you what you need to improve in your invention. For the Tweak It step, try to think about how you can make your invention better. Think about how to modify your invention.

  15. Two startup questions:
    1. (RESPOND AND RESCUE)What can you invent to help save animals in need, like in floods and earthquakes?
    2. (IMMEDIATE RELIEF) Can you make an invention that is portable and easy to use immediately in times of disasters?

  16. If you don’t have any ideas on what to do in the “Think It” step, you can research online and in books, but make sure the website is safe and is trusted, like Teresa said. Also make sure your sources aren’t outdated!

  17. Here are two questions to help you think about your project:

    1. (Prepare) What could you invent to help people prepare for a hurricane before it happens?

    2. (Relief) After a hurricane has occurred, what can you invent to help people get to safety and rebuild their communities?

  18. To successfully conduct good, efficient research, you would need to find some reliable sources(websites, books, etc). So, first: make sure the source you are using is reliable and can be trusted. For websites, check to make sure the URL starts with https://, which means that it is secure. You can also check for bad English in it, or simply just look at the URL. EDU means educational, ORG means organization, and NET means that it is used by companies all over the world. COM is for commercial, and you can never be so sure if those websites are reliable or not. Another tip is to find similar information on several sources, and -BOOM- you found some true info. Or you could just easily call a teacher or adult over to help you figure out if a source if trustworthy or not. I mean, you don’t want to go on believing EVERY SINGLE DETAIL a source states. Precision is best!

  19. When you are trying to brainstorm ideas for the ThinkIt step, think about topics and ideas that you are passionate about. My advice is to choose a topic that interests you so the whole invention process can be fun and interactive. After you have finished listing down all the ideas you are interested in, pick your favorite idea to carry through the invention process.

  20. Hello! I am Hamsini and my interests are math, reading, and science. The invention I created is PeQualM and its purpose is to detect air pollutants. My invention aims to help people who live in highly polluted areas. I really enjoyed working on my invention and encourage everyone to participate in the challenge!

  21. I have the great honor of working with this amazing educator and person. She truly enjoys what she does and inspires young inventors and students everyday.

  22. My name is Tomas, I am from Colombia.

    I really enjoy playing video games, watching movies and hanging out with friends. My favorite sport is soccer and I really like to play soccer with my friends.

    My project was called: Animal Rescue: A Colombian Adventure. It was the winner of The e-pal Choice Award 2017. My project was an application which uses augmented reality, so you can go all around the city searching for animals that are in danger or that are in jails, captured by humans.

    Your task is to free these animals and take them to an animal shelter so that they are safe.
    I really enjoyed participating in this challenge and I think that you should participate too.
    After I participated in this challenge, I realized that my relationship with my teammates was actually much better than it was before, participating here made me learn about teamwork and to relate with my friends and teammates in a better way, you also learn to use your creativity and imagination.

    I would recommend you that if you participate in this challenge, you do it because you enjoy inventing things for you and for helping others because when you do something you enjoy, it always has a better result than something you don’t like doing.

    If you participate, do it because you like to, not because you’re forced to.


  23. Hi! I’m Teresa. I’m from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I like drawing, playing softball, and piano. Last year, I invented the Fluoride Filter, which cleans the impurities such as fluoride out of contaminated water.

    You should enter the Invent It Challenge 2018, as well as anybody else who wants to do so too. In fact, anybody can do anything! It won’t matter if you fail, you can keep on going. Never give up, despite any difficulties. You can achieve great lengths!

    If you aren’t 100% sure if you should join this challenge, think of the rewards! They should be much better this year, so, lucky you! Last year, the prizes included things like books and Lego sets, which were really cool. The prizes really like to grab people’s attention! But this year, they will let the winners go to Washington DC for some neat surprises. If you join, you can choose to work with friends, or even simply on your own. You can hang out with your friends while inventing something for the challenge! Teamwork is a wonderful force. Use it wisely, and the result will be magical.
    If you’re kind of confused and don’t know what to make for the challenge, note of the environmental problems that are occurring right now. I found my idea for my invention when the water in our town’s water tank was accidentally contaminated with too much fluoride, and so I tried to find a way to solve it. You can do the same thing too, find a problem happening right now, and try to find a solution to it! It’s perfectly fine to do a brain dump, where you dump all your ideas out on paper and pick one. If you don’t like the problem you originally chose, it is okay for you to find another. As long as you have an idea, then you have your plans laid out.

    Come and enter the Invent It Challenge 2018! It will be super fun, and besides, who doesn’t want to work with their friends and go to Washington DC together?

  24. Hi! My name is Ruoyan and I was born in China but moved to the United States when I was very little. My hobbies/interests are swimming, gymnastics, and ice skating, just to name a few.

    Teresa and I won the invent-it challenge by creating the “Fluoride Filter” and as you can probably tell from the name it is a filter that removes fluoride from water. It has many layers of filters inside a container that is open on both sides that helps leave the dirty stuff behind so that clean water can keep going. It also has chemicals called alumina and deionizers that help purify the water.

    You should totally enter the Invent It Challenge because it’s a fun experience to invent something and even if you’re not sure yours will win, it’s still worth a shot and you can do it just for fun! Besides, you never know what’s going to happen. My piece of advice is to always check over your invention and test it out whenever you have the chance, because sometimes you’re really sure it works, but you test it out and it doesn’t. Good luck on your invention!

  25. Hello! My name is Arushi and I’m from New Jersey. My many interests consist of science, music, art, writing, and reading. Last year, I created something I called BLITS that eventually ended up winning the Spark! Lab 2017 Invent It Contest for the 11-13 category. My invention was basically a solar-power-generating version of blinds that go over one’s window. The power from the sun generated from the outside would store up. Once a sensor, also engineered onto the blind, would detect that it’s dark in the room the window is in, a light powered only by that stored solar power would turn on and emit light. I realized that placing solar panels on one’s roof is hefty and time-consuming, which is why I designed this cheap version that could light up an entire room just from one window.

    I highly encourage you to enter the Challenge. Not for the possible prizes or the title, but because of the experience. Even if I didn’t end up winning, I still would have enjoyed the experience; it taught me about myself what I like to make. It’s going to be difficult to come up with an idea, create it, and then go back to revise it. But it’s always worth it. This year is a wonderful year to participate, as it offers an opportunity to change your world for the better. You can think of ways to make an impact and, in the near future, end up making a difference as a career. And it all starts with an idea.

Leave a Reply: