Mr. Dave Rook and I arrived at A.N. Pritzker School on a chilly Friday morning. School had already begun, and we slowly made our way to Room 309 to find Mrs. Schauer’s 8th grade class filing in and taking their seats.
I began the outreach visit by connecting the invention process to a topic that the students were familiar with, the scientific method. Using Oreos and cookies as incentives to participate, I asked students to walk through the scientific method step by step. Almost immediately, many eager students raised their hands and together we quickly put the steps into order on the whiteboard:
- Ask a question
- Brainstorm or do some background research
- Make a hypothesis
- Test the hypothesis
- Analyze results
- Write up a conclusion and share it
|Mrs. Schauer's students thinking about the Invention Cycle|
I explained that although students often learned the scientific method as a linear chain of events, it is really a cycle that repeats itself for each new discovery. I then showed how the invention cycle is analogous to the scientific method by asking students to walk me through how they would invent a product. Pointing at the first step of the scientific method on the board, I asked the students: “what is a problem you want to solve?” Two student in the back pointed out that cold floors in the morning are very uncomfortable, so we decided to find a way to keep our feet warm in the winter. Proceeding with this problem, the class found that heating each tile would be too inefficient, so we settled on heated slippers. With all of the input from the different students, we were not only able to go through the entire invention cycle, but also develop a new product along the way. Our invention cycle looked like this:
- Find a problem you want to solve – "Cold floors in the morning are uncomfortable"
- Do some brainstorming and market research – Heated tiles are expensive and inefficient, heated slippers are more practical and are a relatively novel invention
- Make a prototype – We could put some portable heaters or pads in the slippers
- Test the prototype – Make a physical product and have people test them out
- Analyze your product – Which aspects of the slippers should be retained or improved?
- Finalize, publicize, and protect your invention – How do you get from a prototype to a final product and how you can protect your invention through patents?
At this point, I introduced Mr. Dave Rook and his project City Forward. Going through his project, Mr. Rook emphasized the importance of data and how City Forward synthesizes public data into presentable data sets that anybody can use. Citing real-life examples, Mr. Rook showed the class that data can be used to see the relationship between education level and salary. He also talked about STEM careers and 6-year P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) programs where students can earn an associate’s degree upon graduation. Along the way, Mr. Rook provided thought-provoking questions that helped the students understand the value of public data (Example: What are some companies that have commercialized public data? Sample answers: local weather stations, Google, and Ancestry.com) and how data is used to inspire teamwork at events such as hackathons. Mr. Rook concluded his presentation by sharing some resources that students can access for fun.
|Guest Speaker Dave Rook introducing City Forward|
I concluded our outreach visit by pointing out that although City Forward might not seem like an invention (as some students pointed out it is neither physical nor novel) it actually is an invention. First, City Forward solves an important problem in modern times - we have an excess of irrelevant data that we need to sort through. Second, City Forward does a better job of aggregating all of the important data into one location that is easily accessible. Lastly, I explained that City Forward is a project that demonstrates the cyclical nature of invention by pointing out that after people like Mr. Rook go through the invention cycle to invent City Forward, others can use City Forward to create new inventions of their own.