November 22, 2009

Define and Refine Your Invention

Posted by at 7:40 am in Games, Kid Power | Permalink

Lightbulb In previous blog posts, we described the first few steps to becoming an inventor. Now it’s time to take your invention to the next level!

You need to think of something totally original so people will be interested in using your invention in daily life. That means that you need to make it one-of-a-kind with completely new, interesting features. So after you have come up with your main idea, you must define and refine it. It’s time to get technical with your invention and figure out just how it will work and look. With this step, you will begin to see your creation finally taking shape.

The first step is to draw out what your invention will look like. Make a drawing of the whole invention and separate drawings of any special parts. For instance, if you designed a new kind of action figure, how would it look all put together? And, if it had some accessories that snapped on and off, how would each of those look? Draw details where the accessories connect so that you can envision how they will work.

Drawings are good for helping you define your invention, but they won’t tell you how your invention will feel and function. Your next step is to make some models. Building a scale model of your invention using clay or a modeling mold is highly recommended. A scale model is smaller than a full-sized model and will give you a general yet efficiently portable idea of what your creation will become. Before we made our body board invention, we made several small models out of clay to help us figure out the best shape.

Once you think you have a good idea of just what your invention should look like, try to build a life-sized model using cardboard, Styrofoam, or any recycled materials like paper towel rolls or cereal boxes. This will give you a tangible sense of what your final product will look like and where its different features should be placed. Each model helps you define and refine your invention a little bit more.

After you have a model for how your invention looks, think about its function. Imagine how the invention will work exactly. Try to work out every detail of the “working parts” of the invention: Where will the batteries go? Does it light up? Are there switches, buttons or handles that need to be added? Where will these go? How do the pieces fit together? Details are what make the best inventions successful.

Try to think of new ideas as you design your invention. Remember, the possibilities are endless. In the end, your final idea will probably end up looking way different from your original vision, but it’s okay! Refining is all about making your invention the best it can be, so those improvements mean you are doing your job!

— Alyssa Hansen & Kaycee Johnsen, Kid/Teen Inventors


Alyssa Hansen and Kaycee Johnsen, both 16, began inventing when they were just 10 years old. They, along with their siblings and friends, have created Boogie2Boogie, a new kind of wave-riding toy and the Underwater X-treme, a challenging pool toy that solves the problem of everybody peeking when playing Marco Polo. Both inventions won the National TOYchallenge and are currently being marketed by By Kids For Kids. Alyssa and Kaycee have been writing a regular column for creative kids since 2006 and have co-written a book and activity kit that teaches kids how to invent. 

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