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Invention Convention

Wk 1: What Problems Could I Solve?

Learning Outcomes: 
  • The learner will acknowledge problems or challenges s/he encounters at home or at school.
  • The learner will evaluate the feasibility of designing an invention using magnets and / or electricity to build an invention to solve the problem.
  • This activity closely aligns to content Standard E, Kindergarten through fourth grade, of the National Science Standards where students will develop an understanding of the abilities of technological design by
  • Identifying a problem
  • Proposing a solution
  • Implementing a solution
  • Evaluating a product or design
  • Communicating a problem, design, and solution
  • During whole group brainstorming, the teacher will informally observe to ensure each student is able to form an idea for how to build an invention to solve one of the problems. The teacher is observing for an idea only, NOT looking to see if the idea will work perfectly. (For any student who has difficulty with this step, the teacher will plan to spend extra time with them during the independent work.)
  • While students are working independently, the teacher is observing to see that students are able to list problems and propose solutions to problems that interest them.

"What Problems Could I Solve?" is a lesson designed to help students critically evaluate physical challenges in their daily environments. "What Problems Could I Solve?" was designed as a way to acclimate students to being inventors and to prepare them to think of an invention to build. "Invention Convention" is an integrated project combining learning from language arts, science, and math curriculums allowing students to apply their understandings of magnets and electricity by designing or improving an existing invention.

Classroom Time Required: 

This lesson requires thirty minutes.

  • The teacher will share that students will begin to evaluate problematic ideas to eventually turn into an invention.
  • The teacher will ask students to think for thirty seconds about some physical or spatial problems within the classroom. The teacher will ensure that students understand physical / spatial indicates that the problem could be fixed using a tool or object. After students think to them selves, students will "peer share" their ideas with a partner. Finally, students will share classroom problems with the class, and a teacher and / or student will record on chart paper. Some potential problems could be: mud gets stuck to shoes after being on the playground, it is hard to find things in your desk because it is dark, the pencil sharpener allows shavings to escape, etc. If a student does not suggest something involving specialized software or remote controls, the teacher may want to suggest one to use as an example in the evaluation process. (Example: A remote controlled pencil sharpener would prevent our arms from getting tired when sharpening pencils.)
  • Once a bulleted list has been created, the teacher will group three students together, assigning each group one, different, problem from the list. The teacher will ask the students to consider whether or not they can think of an invention that could be constructed that would help the solution. The groups should have four to five minutes to evaluate together. Afterwards, groups should return to whole group to continue the group discussion.
  • The teacher will ask each group to share the problem they evaluated and a brief idea for how to solve the problem. The teacher will inform students that we will keep all ideas as long as we have a basic or general idea of how we can use tools, magnets, and / or electricity to solve the problem. Most ideas should be "solvable," or at least "improvable," and a teacher could hint at a solution should a group get stuck. The teacher should guide students to assert that although we are not able to "build" an invention to improve a remote control problem, the technology exists, and that how to design an invention is a great question for an expert. These are great ideas, but not for our purposes.
  • The teacher will then introduce students to creating a list of problems, one of which will inspire an invention they will make. Students will then work independently to list and form their own ideas. Although working on their own list, it is often beneficial for students to talk and share while working. Students will record work on the "Brainstorming" page of their Inventor's Log.
  • Have students share ideas in small groups of four to six students.
  • For ELLs, sharing ideas quickly, using science and engineering vocabulary, is often quite challenging. For each part of this activity, ELLs should be allowed to illustrate their ideas, and supplement with known and / or taught words as is appropriate.
Author's Comments: 
  • Teachers may want to particularly highlight students who are utilizing magnets, electricity, or simple machines (from prior grade levels) as ways to solve a problem. This helps ensure that students will apply their learning of these content areas.
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