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Inventors and Inventions

Great Sites Center

Education World's Great Sites for Teaching About page highlights Web sites to help educators work timely themes into their lessons. In celebration of National Inventors Month, Internet educator Walter McKenzie selected eight sites that are among the best on the Web for teaching about inventors and inventions.

  1. Built in America
    This online archive documents achievements in architecture, engineering, and design in the United States and its territories through a comprehensive range of building types and engineering technologies. The Library of Congress sponsors the site. Users can search by keyword, subject, and geographic location to research American ingenuity since the Great Depression. The selected imagery map allows visitors to visually search state by state to uncover everything from bridges and buildings to the rare genius of Frank Lloyd Wright. The site includes links to other collections at the Library of Congress online, making Built in America a treasure trove of classroom resources.

  2. Edison National Historic Site
    This site includes everything from information about Edison's life and education to photos and patent lists. The site also details an era, offering virtual tours, Kinetoscope films, popular music, and political speeches. EdiFUN is especially useful for students in grades four or higher and their teachers. It includes such intriguing activities as FAQs or Fables, Edison's "Muckers" and Edison's "Mental Fitness" Test for employees. This site is worth consideration for teachers who want their students to examine a definitive inventor in detail.

  3. The History of Invention
    Did you know toothpaste was invented in 3000 B.C.? It was made from such refined materials as crushed oyster shells and smoked gypsum. This is a time line of useful innovations: plywood, the swimming pool, vaccinations, the electric guitar, the computer mouse, the space shuttle, the V-chip, and so much more. The dates of some inventions may make users look twice! The teacher's guide is full of timely lesson plans; hints, tips, and tricks for navigating the Internet; and teacher-tested instructional strategies ready to use.

  4. Inventing the Future
    Based on the PBS Scientific American Frontiers ] series, this site looks to the future: virtual reality, smart cars, brain music, body talk, and privacy and ethical issues. Even if you have not had the chance to watch the series, this page offers background and support so you and your students can work on their inventions, such as musical instruments and graphing pixels. All you need are common household materials; your students will be up to their elbows in the process of invention.

  5. Invention Dimension
    This MIT site promotes the spirit of invention. It celebrates great men and women who crafted original ideas into technological breakthroughs. Each week, a different inventor is featured along with a look into his or her work and accomplishments. The inventors are housed alphabetically for easy access, links and resources for in-depth study are included. The Inventor's Handbook is the most valuable component of the site. Designed for secondary school students, it examines all facets of research and development in easy-to-understand terms. It was written for the Lemelson-MIT High School Invention Contest, which is also housed on this site.

  6. U.S. Patent Office Kid's Pages
    This great site inspires kids to use their imaginations and invent. There are lots of materials related to intellectual property matters and patents. The page is divided between elementary and secondary levels, with a separate section for teachers and parents. Two contests ran here last spring. One was to ask a famous inventor a well-designed question on inventions. The other was to create a proposal for a virtual museum exhibit on patents or trademarks. New games, puzzles, and events will be added for fall, so stay tuned!

  7. InventorResource
    Tips on researching inventions, knowing when to seek patents, designing a business plan, trademarking brand names and logos, finding funding, and much more can be found on this comprehensive site for inventors. Here you'll find dozens of articles on the entire range of topics associated with inventing. As a bonus, in the Inventory Facts section you will find articles on the ten greatest inventors and ten greatest inventions of all time.

  8. Wacky Patent of the Month
    This site features unusual and amazing contraptions every month (recently, a combination clothes-brush, flask, and drinking cup), along with information on patents and invention links. A law office sponsors the site. The link on Patenting, for example, can be especially helpful for high school students who need to know how to secure patents for their original work.

Walter McKenzie
Education World®
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Originally published 08/14/2000
Last updated 09/24/2007