When inventing, you will come across challenges as you bring your ideas to life. In our last article we talked about refining and redesigning your invention through drawings and models. We talked about really getting specific about what you want your invention to be, look like, and do. Sometimes while you are working on refining your product, you may discover some flaws or issues that will need to be dealt with in creative ways. A great technique you can use when you are trying to take your invention to the next level is called SCAMPER, which is an acronym created by Bob Eberle to represent a set of idea-triggering questions.
So what does SCAMPER stand for you ask? Let us tell you:
S – Substitute
What other materials can I use?
Example: Styrofoam instead of cardboard, glue instead of nails, batteries instead of solar power
C – Combine
How can I join two of my elements to make a combination that will solve the problem? Example: Attach two parts of your toy with magnets so they can also be separated for individual use.
A – Adapt
What if I changed this part for another part? Example: Put a large crank on the side for child-sized hands instead of a small switch.
M – Modify
Consider the attributes (size, shape, texture etc.) of your invention, then ask yourself, how can I change them? Example: Make it flat instead of arched, round instead of square, furry instead of smooth.
P – Purpose
How will you use it? What are other ways you can use it? Example: Use it as a chair or maybe a table, in the water or on land, hide a game within a game.
E – Eliminate
Remove any parts or pieces of your invention that aren’t necessary. Example: Does it need the strap? Does it have to have 3 screws? Is the GPS system a nice accessory, or is it really necessary?
R – Reverse/ Rearrange
Change the direction or orientation. Example: Can you turn it inside out? Can it be used upside down? What if you hold it on its side?
Inventing something brand new can all seem overwhelming, but if you take it step by step, you will discover endless ways you can change and improve upon your original design while solving problems you may not have thought about before. Just remember to not give up; solving problems is what inventing is really all about!
— 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.