By Kristy Houle, Educational Opportunities Coordinator
Inventions big and small can change the way we live. The majority of great inventions happen in the most unexpected of ways. Take, for example, the story of Tim Leatherman. As a young man, Tim always carried a simple Boy Scout pocketknife with him everywhere he went. One night in 1975, as he was traveling abroad, he entered his room to find it freezing cold. As he inspected the radiator in the room, he realized he couldn’t turn the handle to adjust the temperature due to the screw being stripped. He reached for his pocketknife and thought to himself, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a pair of pliers attached to my pocketknife?” In an instant the idea for the Leatherman Multitool came to his mind.
Fast forward 35 years and 40 million multitools sold, and today Tim Leatherman embodies the dream of financial and creative freedom that motivates independent inventors everywhere. There are hundreds of other inventions and inventors that we may never think about who created simple, but life-changing items.
What about Nicholas Conte, the French chemist who discovered the process to make pencils, or John Lee Love, the inventor of the first pencil sharpener? Essentially everything we use daily was once a simple idea by a person just like you or me.
So how exactly do you create an invention and what does that process look like? What comes first? The chicken or the egg? A new idea, or an idea to improve something that already exists? An invention that achieves a completely new function or result may be a radical new breakthrough.
Research, design, production, and packaging are four of the main components in the process of a successful invention. Many times a potential inventor will meet with many obstacles during this process and give up. Having a well-designed and thought out game plan will help keep the inventor on track and focused. The game plan is what connects the idea with the reduction of practice.
Another great example is local inventors Sydney Gralike and The Blockheads. This group of girls from Assumption Parish and Sperreng Elementary School in St. Louis, Missouri are helping to solve one of the world’s pressing problems. This group of local inventors worked with teachers, parents, and community members to create the Eco Bin – a metal bin that dissolves Styrofoam when mixed with water and a nontoxic chemical made from orange peels.
Their invention started as part of a FIRST LEGO League Trash Trek project. These projects ask students to identify a problem with trash, design an innovative solution and share their solution with others. From there, they put their heads together and developed a plan to tackle a problem for which they were told there was no solution.
HEC-TV will be taking you behind the scenes of The Blockheads and their journey through the invention process on Thursday, January 19, 2017 during our Explore! Invention! program.
Throughout the show, participants will see what it’s like to come up with an idea for a new invention and the process of building and launching a successful new idea. We hope you join us on January 19th to Explore! Invention!