I was recently asked to provide some guidance to a 7th grader interested in invention. How does a high school or junior high school student cultivate such an interest? I put together the following list and thought that others might not only find it useful, but also suggest additional resources. Here it is:
1) InvenTeams (http://web.mit.edu/inventeams/), a program run by our sister non-profit called the Lemelson-MIT Program. To utilize this program, the student or parent, would have to convince an inventive high-school teacher to apply for funding with a project in mind. In southern California, the daughter of a college professor get something started at her school by doing most of the heavy lifting insofar as pulling together the team and application. Once established at the school, this is a great experience for kids and potentially the start of an inventors club. The program also publishes a neat little online guide: http://web.mit.edu/invent/h-main.html
2) FIRST USA (http://www.usfirst.org/) is another invention-oriented program, started by Dean Kamen founder of the Segway. This is a cool program that utilizes legos and lego’s mindstorms product to engage in invention utilizing mechanical engineering, computer engineering, robotics, some software coding, et al and teaches them to think creatively about product development/design.
3) The Lemelson Center at the Smithsonian is another grantee. Not only do they have a great exhibit in D.C., but they have some resources listed here: http://invention.smithsonian.org/resources/
4) Search for summer programs at colleges (I know my alma mater, Smith College, used to have one for math and science directed at young girls) that may expose the 7th grader to a ‘higher-level’ of technical training.
5) I once came across a high school student whose father did pro-bono legal work for a collegiate invention team. I think that got the student on an e-team (a team of students that received funding from us to take forward their invention) and able to participate (mostly, I think he was a silent observer) in our venture acceleration workshop. If one were to find a team working on an invention or venture at an area college, perhaps one could network their way onto a team for a rich experience.
Know of additional resources? Please suggest them…
Ammendment January 25th, 2012:
Oh, and if anyone is interested in cultivating science / technology / math / engineering / invention even EARLIER, amongst elementary school kids, feel free to leverage the PPT presentation created for the last three years for ‘Math and Science Day’:
1) Great for K-1st Grade: http://www.slideshare.net/humeraf/why-math
2) Universal for K-1st, 2nd-4th and 5th-6th: http://www.slideshare.net/humeraf/math-science-do-what-you-love … the emphasis varied by each age bracket, as did the Q&A afterwards, but the students were very engaged.
3) I didn’t upload the presentation for the third year, but I used some elements of #2 and featured as the star attraction three different collegiate invention teams that Skype’d in live from MIT, BU and Art Center College of Design for a quick presentation (projected onto a big screen) on what they invented and how math/science played a key role. The Q&A afterwards was a big hit, as students got to come up to the computer one at a time to ask their question and get a real-time answer.