Manufacturing business: Are you an elementary or high school student with all kinds of invention ideas? You might not know what to do with all of these ideas or how to turn them into workable inventions. Maybe you don’t have any ideas yet, but want to know how to come up with them. With some research, planning, and prototyping, you can come up with ideas and then make these ideas into a working device.
Identify a problem worth solving. The very first step in any inventing process is to identify the problem that your invention will solve. Look at the world around you and ask yourself: What could work better? What task could be done better or faster? What annoys you and how could you fix it?
- Ask friends or family about daily problems they face and record their feedback.
- The problem doesn’t need to be new and the device doesn’t need to be new. Even if a dozen designs for a particular device exist, you’re still inventing something if you make a new design to do the same thing in a different way.
- Be creative with your ideas. Not every idea will be a great one, but don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
- Some problems that have been solved in the past include:
- The telephone solved the problem of rapid communication. Before the telephone, the fastest way to communicate was using a telegraph and Morse code. With the telephone, you skip the translation of the code and speak directly to another individual!
- Crayon holders: Invented by 12 year-old Cassidy Goldstein who solved the problem of colouring with broken crayons.
Keep an idea notebook. Have you ever had a brilliant idea and then forgotten about it later? Carry a notebook around to take notes as ideas come to you so you don’t forget about them. Add a little note about how the idea came to you and write the date next to it.
- Use your notebook to keep track of inventions you’re currently working on and to write down ideas about new inventions.
Make sure your idea doesn’t already exist. You may have come up with a fantastic idea, but it’s possible that someone else has already thought of it. Do a quick search online to see if something similar has already been made. With your parents help, search for patents that might already exist for your idea.
- If your idea does exist, don’t be discouraged; it just means that you came up with such a great solution that it has already been made.
Read about famous inventors and inventions. People have been coming up with creative ways to solve problems for thousands of years. Reading about famous inventors and the inventions they came up with can spark your own problem-solving creativity. Learn about their process and apply it to your own life.
- Be inspired by reading about other young inventors.
- Look at other inventions in your surroundings and learn how they work. Inventions don’t need to be complicated, simply functional.
Meet with other inventors. Ask your parents to help you contact other inventors to meet with them. Ask them about their process and how they came up with their ideas. Getting first-hand information about what it takes to be an inventor is a great beginning step to becoming an inventor yourself.
- Ask them how long it took them to come up with an idea and make a workable device.
- Find out how much time and effort they put into their inventions. Did they ever come up with an idea that they couldn’t make work? What do they do when that happens?
Sketch your idea. Draw out a basic diagram of what your invention will look like. Label every component and make notes in the margins about how various pieces will go together. List the types of materials you would use to build the finished project. Don’t hesitate to make multiple sketches of the same design until you are satisfied with the result.
- Start the sketch with pencil so you can erase mistakes.
- Use colour pencils or markers to add the finishing details.
- If you’re a little more advanced, you can use a Computer Aided Design (CAD) program to make a 3D model of your invention on the computer.
Gather the necessary materials to build a prototype. A prototype is a working model of your idea. It will likely not be a very polished version, but will prove the concept behind the idea itself. You don’t need to use the highest quality materials, but simply ones that will give you a functional working device.
- Make a list of everything you’ll need and how much of it is necessary.
- Look around your home for recycled materials that you may be able to use and then purchase the rest with permission from your parents. Try checking thrift stores and yard sales for parts that you can use. This will be much more cost effective and you will also be reusing materials.
- Learn all you can about the things that will comprise your invention, whether those are wood or metal rods, circuits and software, motors and gears, or fabrics and threads. The more you know about how the pieces work and how they work together, the more robust your invention can be.
- If you need any special tools for construction, ask your parents if they have them or if they know anyone who might have access to them. Find out if your school has a workshop that you can use.
Find a good time to build your invention. If you will be working with power tools or other dangerous materials, you will likely need adult supervision. Ask your parents when they have enough free time to sit down with you and start building. If you have an older sibling, ask them if they can help you out as well.
- If there are components that don’t need adult supervision, work on those when your parents are too busy to help you with the power tools.
Build the prototype of your idea. Once you have all the materials you need and the necessary supervision for construction, you can build your prototype. Be precise in your building and try to make it as close as possible to the sketch you’ve made. Measure twice and cut once, and make sure to be consistent with measurements. Don’t switch from inches to centimeters or from feet to meters. You don’t want to mess anything up because you weren’t paying attention while measuring.
- You may find that while building the prototype you have to change the design a bit. This is all part of the inventing process.
- Always have a parent in the room with you while you are inventing. They know how to use the tools and will be a huge help.
- If you have to use a hot glue gun, there are mini ones on the market. You can use those by yourself, but make sure a parent is in the room.
- Wear old clothes you don’t care about to avoid getting paint and glue all over good clothes.
Test your prototype. Does your finished product work? Is it solving the problem the way you envisioned? Are there improvements you can make that will work better? Will a different material work better for the final construction? These are all important questions you need to ask yourself to decide if your idea is going to be a success.
- Ask your parents to test out the device and if they have any suggestions for improvements. Ask them what they like about it and what they might change.
- Constructive feedback is an important part of the process. If something isn’t working, use the information they give you to make it better.
Attend an invention workshop. Invention workshops will guide you through the basics of coming up with an idea, building it, and then telling other people about why your idea is important and useful. There are young inventor workshops all over the world that you can sign-up for and participate in.
- There are also camps available for young inventors that might be of interest.
Name your invention. In most cases a simple name describing the function of your invention is sufficient, but a catchy name can also help people remember your product. Keep the name short and to-the-point. Avoid using a confusing or misleading name.
- Come up with a few different names and ask your friends and family what sounds the best.
Draft a patent. In order to protect your invention and claim it as your own, you must patent it. A patent is a legal document stating that you came up with the idea and proves that you own the invention. It prevents other people from stealing your idea.
- The patent process can be complicated so ask your parents for help with this if it’s something you are seriously considering.
Reach out to investors. If you want to mass produce your invention and start selling it to others, you will likely need to raise some money. Investors are individuals who give you money when you are first starting out so you can produce the product. In return, they will get some of the profits from the sales of product.
- You can start by asking friends and family to help out.
- Participating in inventor challenges can be a great start because many of them have cash prizes.
Compete in an inventor challenge. Inventor challenge competitions are a great way to show your inventions. Some of these competitions may have specific problems that they are trying to solve, while others are completely open to submit whatever you like. If you have a working prototype, consider submitting it to an open competition.
- Find a competition near you and register for it.
- Turn in all of the components on time to be eligible for the competition.
- Some of the top competitions include:
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