Lesson 3


Teams of students work cooperatively to choose the ten greatest inventions from a list of likely candidates and compile the list in a graph. Teams of students work cooperatively to design, invent, and build a model of something new, useful, or decorative to solve a problem using any combination of materials provided.

Grade level: 6–12

State of Wisconsin Academic Standards Objectives Materials Needed

What to Do

1. Discuss with the students that some inventions are so earth-shaking that they merit their own age: the Bronze Age, the Machine Age, the Golden Age of the Automobile, the Space Age, the Computer Age. Other inventions are important because they are ubiquitous: television, clothing, paper, electric power. Still other inventions have the distinction of antiquity: the wheel, pottery, bricks, the alphabet, and so on.

What makes an invention great? Either provide groups of students with a single criterion, to make the exercise easier and more concrete, or generate a list of criteria through the discussion, such as:

2. Discuss with the students if all these criteria are equally important or if some matter more than others. Divide the class into teams and give the teams a few minutes to discuss or decide on criteria for a great invention, then allow time for the teams to write a list of the ten all-time most significant inventions.

3. Have the students compare lists and discuss some of the issues that arose. Why did groups include or omit certain inventions? Are newer inventions (printing press, typewriter, computer) greater than old inventions (ink, paper) or vice versa? Old inventions were more directly connected with basic human survival: better farming, housing, and clothing, for examples. But new inventions may affect more people at a faster rate because of global connectedness.

Is it more important to know where you are (compass, map) or what time it is (clock, sundial)? Are diversions (baseball game, movies) ever as important as inventions associated with basic human needs and/or survival (water pumps and water filtration, refrigerator, microwave)?

Have the students interpret and graph the data with a simple bar graph showing which inventions were listed most often by the groups. A more extension graph can weigh the inventions by their ratings by converting the ranking into a point system. For example, a “1” ranking earns ten points, a “2” ranking earns 9 points, and so on. Total the points for each invention and divide the totals by the number of times each invention appears on the lists; graph the inventions by their average scores.

4. Using the Briggs and Stratton Diesel Motor Model as an example, review with the students the following regarding creating an invention or innovation.

When you see an invention and think about how you can make it better, you have created an idea for an innovation. You can innovate any invention with your own creativity. Consider these steps:

Find a Problem Think of CRAZY Solutions Choose a Solution Plan It Out Make It Test It

5. Begin by asking the students to conduct a survey. Tell them to interview everyone that they can to find out what problems need solutions. What kind of invention, tool, game, device, or idea would be helpful at home, work, or during leisure?

6. Ask the students to list the problems that needed to be solved. Using the list of problems, ask the students to think of which problems would be possible for them to work on. They can do this by listing the pros and cons for each possibility. Predict the outcome or possible solution(s) for each problem. Make a decision by selecting one or two problems that provide the best options for an inventive solution.

7. Divide the students into teams to work on creating an invention to solve the problem. Encourage the students to think of many, varied, and unusual ways of solving the problem they have chosen. They should list all of the possibilities on a piece of paper. After they have developed a list, have the students select one of the possible solutions to work on as a team.

Consider having the students record their ideas, how they got the ideas, any challenges and how they solve them, a list of materials used, sketches of ideas, and work progress in a journal. Encourage the students to think about and record their responses to the following questions.

8. When the students have an idea that meets most of the above qualifications, have them plan how they are going to complete their invention and allow time for them to complete the model.

9. Encourage the students to name their invention. Inventions can be named in one of the following ways.

9. Have the students present their invention models to the class. Presenters give information about what problem the invention solves and how it solves it, the name of their inventions, and what they would change or improve if they were to make another model for the same problem.

Teacher Options