Stepping into Invention Education

Grades 3-5 60 min
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Encourage students to invent, while developing problem-solving skills through hands-on activities.

A new transdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning, known as invention education, is gaining popularity in the United States and abroad. Young people are learning ways inventors find and solve problems that matter through inquiry-based, hands-on projects.

They are also learning how to build solutions in ways that are environmentally friendly, how to protect their ideas and creations, and how to bring solutions to intended audiences (i.e. entrepreneurship).

Students and teachers tell us stories about the knowledge and human skills they gain that help prepare them for the future of work and to be leaders in their communities. They also tell us that the experience is fun and transformational to their lives. We invite you to take advantage of the time you may be spending at home. Gather your tools, re-usable materials and dive right into the activities we have on this site.

The Lemelson-MIT (LMIT) Program located within the School of Engineering at MIT has helped 257 teams of high school students and their teachers learn to invent. Ten teams have earned patents for their work. Prof. Michael Cima, LMIT’s Faculty Director, Prof. Sangeeta Bhatia, the 2014 Lemelson-MIT Prize winner, and MIT Media Lab alumnus and 2014 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize winner, David Sengeh, offer their insights into ways of helping young people learn to invent.

What can families do to use this time to help young people get started on the path to becoming a young inventor?

Prof. Michael Cima on the Pathway to Invention

What 3 pieces of advice would you offer to young inventors?

Prof. Michael Cima on Advice for Young Inventors

What characteristics do inventors share?

Prof. Sangeeta Bhatia on Invention

What’s important to think about when solving a problem?

David Sengeh on Invention Tips for Young People


These are very unusual times for all of us. The activities in this care package are adapted from a program that was highly engaging for 3rd-, 4th-, and 5th-grade girls this past fall in an afterschool program at a local elementary school near MIT. The goal is to help young inventors understand that they need to develop empathy for the people they are inventing with. It’s important to invent with people and not for people.

Our current situation that requires physical distancing makes it difficult to invent with people. However, as you facilitate your child’s learning, you may be able to assist them to reach out to a family member or a friend who may have a hearing loss – the theme of this week’s activities. Perhaps you have stories you can share of people you’ve known who have hearing loss. This will help your child understand difficulties people have in the “hearing” world and will help build empathy. The activities here are complete. Your child can spend 20 minutes or 20 hours having fun with the activities while they learn about inventors and inventing.

Hopefully, with their invention box full of safe tools and materials from home and armed with a notebook to write down all their good ideas, they will invent for years to come.

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