What’s Your Problem? And . . . Why Are You So Happy About It?
Let’s face it. All toys, games and sporting goods can have problems. Isn’t that great? In fact, nothing would ever be created if there weren’t problems to solve! There are two ways problems can help you in inventing. First, problems can help you figure out what to create. And second, problems can help you figure out how to make your invention the best it can be.
PROBLEMS HELP YOU GET CREATIVE When you begin to think like an inventor, you will notice problems. As you play a game of checkers, you might think to yourself, “Wouldn’t this be more fun if it were more challenging?” You’ve just found a problem an inventor like yourself can solve. How could you make checkers more challenging? What if it were a three-player board instead of a two-player board? What if you put magnets on the pieces and played checkers across a cube? When you are skateboarding, you notice that every time you hit a crack in the sidewalk, you end up on the ground picking dirt out of your teeth. Your inventor brain can kick in and find a new kind of springs for skateboard wheels or a cool mouth guard that repels dust. See how easy it is to think like an inventor?
So. . . what should you do about it while you’re working on your new toy, game or sporting goods design? Take notes!! You’ll hear us say it again and again — Take notes! Take notes! Take notes! Keep a notebook full of your ideas, problems and designs. These are what will turn into your next great invention.
PROBLEMS HELP YOU MAKE BETTER INVENTIONS There is another way problems help you as an inventor — that’s when you have problems with your own creations. You may think you have finished creating the next great toy, but when you take it out for a test run, it is an epic fail. When we invented a new type of body board for riding in the ocean, we put on our swim suits, ran into the water with our invention. . . and sank. As an inventor, there will be times when you will have to simply try again. Don’t get discouraged. Problems are actually one clue that you are on the right path to a great new toy. If your invention just doesn’t work the way you want it to, don’t lose hope. Just remember the four R’s: Research it. Redesign it. Remodel it. Rework it. And, know that it’s okay to ask for help once in a while. Don’t be embarrassed to ask a teacher or an adult expert. There are people out there who will be glad to help you!
It may take you a while, but every problem does have a solution. The very best thing to do when you have a problem is simple — breathe. Don’t freak out. Come on, it’s like they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” If it doesn’t work the first time, no getting discouraged, just try and try again! In the end, the effort you spend solving problems will be worth it. Your final invention will be much better than you originally imagined!
— 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.