Inventing Matters: Use It! Activities

Encourage students to invent, while developing problem-solving skills through hands-on activities that bring to life devices to positively impact a global community.

Grades 6-12 2 hr Resource by:

Today we announce the 2020 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize winners who are recognized for their technology-based inventions as graduate students or undergraduate teams in one of four categories: “Use it!,” “Move it!,” “Eat it!,” and “Cure it!” The national effort is sponsored by The Lemelson Foundation. “We congratulate this year’s winners for their outstanding work tackling global problems in order to improve lives around the world,” said Carol Dahl, executive director at The Lemelson Foundation. “These students are an inspiring example of how young minds across the country can solve problems through invention.”

Prize winners and the young inventors we have worked with from high schools across the U.S. cite the importance of having opportunities for learning the unique ways inventors find and solve problems. These opportunities (referred to as ‘invention education’) develop human skills needed for the workforce and prepare young people to be creative problem solvers in their communities and beyond. We invite you to explore the examples of young inventors on this site and to get started on the pathway to inventing by picking an activity in whatever category fits your personal interest and passion.

Have fun inventing!

2020 “Use it!” Lemelson-MIT Student Prize Undergraduate Team Winner

Neptune Plastics: Marx Acosta-Rubio, Grant Christensen, and Hal Jones, Brigham Young University. A biodegradeable and compostable plastic bag that is safe for wildlife to eat!

2020 “Use it!” Lemelson-MIT Student Prize Graduate Winner

Daniela Blanco, New York University. A greener chemical reactor, which is a machine that transforms a raw material into a useable product.

We recommend you read the Letter to Grades 6-12 Students first. You don’t need to work through the activities in order. Every category includes (1) explorations of inventions created by Lemelson-MIT Student Prize winners and InvenTeam grant recipients, (2) a hands-on activity, and (3) brainstorming of your own invention projects. Remember, inventing is just plain fun! We hope you’ll have lots of fun this week!

Explore “Use it!” Inventions

Explore “Use it!” inventions created by students in high schools, colleges, and graduate schools and think about what kind of users may benefit from their inventions. Think about what you may want to invent to improve people’s lives.

Heavy Lifting Inventions

You’ve probably seen cranes used to lift heavy materials. What if we could use cranes in our daily life? In this activity, you will get to develop the hands-on skill of using common materials to create a crane.

Think Like an Inventor

Now that you have learned about inventors and the invention process, how about doing some problem solving? This activity introduces you to a technique called SCAMPER. You can use the SCAMPER guide to brainstorm your ideas.


Don’t forget that you can share your invention ideas using the Full STEAM Ahead forums or on social media using #MITFullSTEAM (with parent permission).


Share Your Invention!