Imagine that you lived in an area with no infrastructure, no roads and no electricity. How would your life be different?
According to the article, Manu Prakash invented the Paperfuge, a 20-cent centrifuge, and the Foldscope, a paper microscope that costs just a dollar. How do you think these inventions will improve the lives of people around the world?
Why do you think Manu Prakash and his assistant focused on old-school, preindustrial toys like yo-yos and whirligigs while trying to design a cheap, human-powered centrifuge?
In today's world, technological progress often involves digital, 3-D, laser or some other type of modern innovation. The Paperfuge is based on a preindustrial toy. Explain why this invention is also an example of technological progress.
- Have students brainstorm a list of critical problems facing their school, their community or the world. From that list, have students select the one problem that they consider to be the most pressing. Challenge them to explain why they think this is the most important problem to solve.
- Instruct students to conduct research to learn more about the issue they selected. As they investigate, have them also search for solutions that have been tried before. Which solutions worked best? What prevents those solutions from working everywhere the problem occurs?
- Have students brainstorm ideas for a simple invention that they think would fix the problem. Encourage them to draw a picture of their idea. Then have students write a brief summary explaining how their device works and why they think it will solve the problem.
Invite students to share their ideas with the class. Encourage classmates to discuss the merits of each new invention. Challenge them to identify improvements that could make the invention an even more effective solution to the designated problem.
CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:
Have the class brainstorm a list of critical problems facing the school. Select one problem. Discuss reasons why it is important to resolve this issue. Then encourage students to question other students, teachers, school administrators and their parents about potential solutions. Regroup so students can share what they learned. Then instruct students to each think of an invention that could solve the problem. Tell them to draw a picture of their idea and write a summary telling how it works and why they think it will solve the problem.
Divide the class into small groups. Instruct each group to identify a critical problem facing their school or community. Encourage students to interview affected people to learn more about the problem, including proposed solutions that have tried and failed in the past. Challenge groups to come up with a new invention that could solve the problem. Tell them to write a summary explaining how the invention works and why they think it will solve the problem. Instruct each group member to draw a picture of the new invention.
Divide the class into pairs. Instruct partners to identify a critical problem facing their community. Encourage students to search records and interview affected people to learn about proposed solutions that have tried and failed in the past. Challenge partners to come up with a new invention that could solve the problem. Have partners work together to create a prototype of their idea. Then have them write a summary explaining how the invention works and why they think it will solve the problem.
As a class, brainstorm a list of critical problems facing the world. Instruct each student to select one issue. Have students conduct research to learn more about the problem and solutions that have been tried before. Instruct them to identify reasons why other solutions have failed. Then challenge students to think of a simple invention that could solve the problem. Instruct them to draw a picture or create a prototype of their idea. Then have them write a detailed summary explaining how their invention works and why they think it will solve the critical problem.
This website, presented by the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, features three themed exhibitions—Cities, Design for the Other 90 and Network. The exhibitions feature projects that demonstrate how design can address the world’s most critical issues through both individual objects and broader strategic and systems level solutions.
In part one of this two-part lesson form the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, students examine how design can be a force in transforming lives. Students learn how education can be used to fight poverty and research low-cost educational design innovations.
This online exhibit from the National Museum of American History explores the process of invention by comparing Thomas Alva Edison’s well-known work on the electric light bulb a century ago with several modern lighting inventions. The site considers the process of innovation through five steps: preconditions, invention, promotion, competition and consequences.
In the Humanity Against Hunger web module, presented by the National Museum of Natural History, students become volunteers to help solve the severe food shortage faced in Africa. Through interactive experience, students learn how nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous deficiencies can stunt plant growth in different ways. They also learn how replenishing the land with fertilizer can help farmers achieve higher yields of crops to feed more.
Earth’s climate is constantly being threatened by the weakened ozone layer. In this lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, students will explore various alternative ways that humans can decrease global warming in the Earth’s atmosphere. Students will then create a plan or invention to increase clean air.
With a patent to her name and more likely on the way, the teenager has made it her mission to inspire young innovators. Read this Smithsonian article to learn how.