Frequently Asked Questions

About Invention Education

What is Invention Education?

Invention Education is a powerful educational approach that teaches the unique ways inventors find and solve problems. When students experience this approach, they become more engaged in their learning, more inclusive in their thinking, and more prepared for a future of rapid change and uncertainty.

Why is Invention Education needed?

Our children face a future of new, more demanding, and increasingly complex problems – climate change, global health, sustainable business, poverty, and more.1 Solving these problems will require agile thinkers with diverse perspectives and life experiences, and an ability to identify and acquire the new, yet unknown knowledge needed to operate and create tomorrow’s technologies and industries.2 Skills like leadership, teamwork, empathy and resilience will be needed to prepare students to succeed in the future. At the same time, our educational system risks growing increasingly out of step with the needs of life and work in the 21st century. Invention Education offers a powerful approach to bridge this gap and tap into the latent creative potential within every student.

1 UN Sustainable Development Goals

2 WEF Jobs for the Future

What are the benefits of Invention Education for students?

Invention Education teaches essential skills students need, whether they become inventors or not. It provides a safe learning environment that encourages students to take risks, experience failure, and be comfortable in ambiguity. Students increase their self-confidence and resilience, as well as develop leadership skills. The problem identification process core to Invention Education also helps students develop critical “soft” skills such as empathy and gives them a greater appreciation for inclusivity in problem solving. Moreover, gold standard programs demonstrate the power of Invention Education to engage a greater diversity of students – especially girls and students of color – into STEM learning and careers.

What are the benefits of Invention Education for educators?

Educators are faced with increasing demands on their time and resources.3 Invention Education enhances their existing approaches and integrates with current curriculum. Educators consistently report that Invention Education inspires students to be more engaged in their own learning, bucking trends that show steady declines in student engagement.4 Invention Education also helps educators realize the opportunity to have real impact on how students view themselves and their futures.

3 Researching Invention Education, A White Paper, 2019

4 ReGallup Student Poll, Education Week

What are the benefits of Invention Education for society?

Creating sustainable, resilient economies is a fundamental challenge for the future. Invention has proven to be a critical driver of economic growth and high quality, high paying jobs. Future leaders will need skills such as empathy and inclusion, as well as technical knowledge (e.g. STEM, computer science) to both thrive in and create the industries and jobs of tomorrow.5 Invention Education builds these skills and mindsets in an engaging, fun way, preparing students to thrive in a future yet to be determined, in industries yet to be imagined, and in jobs yet to be created.

5 WEF Jobs for the Future

What are examples of the impact of Invention Education?

Researchers have argued that early and sustaining exposure to invention, STEM, arts, and medicine-related (STEAMM) experiences have the most lasting impact on young people’s trajectories and careers in invention and related fields6 7 8 however, engagement in Invention Education at any age and in any type of program can also impact one’s interests, college and career pathways, and, more generally, can awaken one’s creativity, “can-do attitude,” and self-confidence in problem solving as well as empathy and understanding of the social world through a problem-seeking and problem-solving lens. 9 10 11 12 13

6 Bell, A., Chetty, R., Jaravel, X., Petkova, N., & Van Reenen, J. (2018). Who becomes an inventor in America? The importance of exposure to innovation. Retrieved from https://opportunityinsights.org/wp-content/up- loads/2019/01/patents_paper.pdf

7 Committee for the Study of Invention. (2004). Invention: Enhancing inventiveness for quality of life, competitiveness, and sustainability

8 Root-Bernstein, R., Peruski, A., VanDyke, M., Root-Bernstein, M., LaMore, R., Schweitzer, J., … Roraback, E. (2019). Differences in male and female arts and crafts avocations in the early training and patenting activity of STEMM professionals. Technology & Innovation, 20(3), 197–219.

9 Couch, S., Estabrooks, L. B., & Skukauskaite, A. (2018). Addressing the gender gap among patent holders through invention education policies. Technology & Innovation, 19(4), 735–749.

10 Moore, R. A., Newton, S. H., & Baskett, A. D. (2017). The InVenture challenge: Inspiring STEM learning through invention and entrepreneurship. International Journal of Engineering Education, 33(1B), 361–370.

11 Perez-Breva, L. (2016). Innovating: A doer’s manifesto. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

12 Root-Bernstein, R., & Root-Bernstein, M. (1999). Sparks of genius: The thirteen thinking tools of the world’s most creative people. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

13 Researching Invention Education, A White Paper, 2019

What research has been done on Invention Education?

Research studies of Invention Education in the United States have been limited. That is changing, however. In 2019, members of the InventEd Network, representing institutions such as University of Iowa, MIT and Georgia Tech, participated in a yearlong collaborative effort supported by the Lemelson Foundation that aimed to develop a research agenda for the field. In November 2019, a synthesis of their work – Researching Invention Education: A White Paper – was published. The document summarizes the research base, values, and principles currently guiding the development and implementation of Invention Education.

How many and which schools, districts and informal education settings are delivering Invention Education experiences?

Educators have been engaging their students with Invention Education for more than 16 years in a variety of ways and a range of learning environments. To date, Invention Education has grown mostly through an informal word-of-mouth process and a grass roots network of passionate and committed educators. To date, programs have engaged over 120,000 kids annually around the world. The InventEd Network is currently in the process of reviewing the field to better determine the number and location of schools, districts and informal settings that are delivering Invention Education experiences.

Hasn’t Invention Education been around for a while? What is different about this effort?

While individual Invention Education programs and curricula have been in use, this is the first time that a diverse group of leaders from education, government, policy and more are collaborating in a structured, formal, and coordinated effort to build the field and bring Invention Education to more students. Early results of this collaboration include The Invention Education Framework and Researching Invention Education, A White Paper.

Is Invention Education aligned with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)?

Invention Education supports NGSS, which focuses on the practical application of STEM and their connection to engineering principles for K-12 students.

What are some examples of Invention Education in action?

Invention Education is represented in a wide array of programs, including both in and out of school, formal and informal. It can take place in a day, but more often over the span of weeks and in some cases an entire academic year. A few specific programs include Spark!Lab, an innovative approach to Invention Education that brings the experience of invention into communities through hands-on workspaces that spark the inventor that lives in all of us. Spark!Lab first opened in 2008, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Today, the Spark!Lab National Network consists of nine centers housed at various museums and cultural institutions across the country, collectively reaching more than # visitors annually. Another example is Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams®, comprised of high school students, educators, and mentors that receive up to $10,000 each to invent technological solutions to real-world problems of their own choosing. Through the InvenTeams experience, high school students are given a unique opportunity to experience invention and cultivate creativity. A third example is Invention Convention Worldwide powered by The Henry Ford, which offers Invention Education programs for K–12 students globally. The Invention Convention program is deployed to more than 120,000 students across the United States and thousands more across eight countries.

How do I bring Invention Education to my school or afterschool program?

There are multiple ways to bring Invention Education to your school or afterschool program. Some great first steps are to review the curriculum featured on inventioneducation.org and add your name to the InventEd mailing list to receive additional resources.

You can also download and share the free Invention Education Framework. Learn more below.

Not all my students want to be inventors. Why is it important for me to include them in Invention Education?

Invention Education teaches essential skills that all students need, whether they become inventors or not. It provides a safe learning environment that encourages students to take risks, experience failure, and be comfortable in ambiguity. Students develop increased self-confidence, more resilience, and stronger leadership skills, all of which they’ll need to effectively address future challenges, regardless of what path they pursue.

What funding is required to implement Invention Education?

Funding required to implement Invention Education varies according to setting (e.g. in school, afterschool, museum etc.), dosage, model (e.g. course, competition), materials used, and number of students involved. For more information on the different types and levels of funding, please contact info@inventioneducation.org.

The Invention Education Framework

What is the Invention Education Framework?

The Invention Education framework is a comprehensive set of principles for Invention Education that can support its growth within formal and informal learning environments from K-12 through higher education. It is organized around six tenets by which gold-standard programs, activities and curricula will be articulated, understood and evaluated. The six tenets are: 1) Context, 2) Empathy, 3) Problem Solving, 4) Continuous Learning, 5) Iteration, 6) Sustainable Innovation.

Who developed the Framework?

More than 100 community stakeholders, including in- and out-of-school time educators, business leaders, education researchers, nonprofits, policy makers, inventors and representatives of the philanthropic community, contributed to the development of the document.

Why was the Framework created?

The Framework was created to help ensure the quality and integrity of the Invention Education field. It defines the characteristics and principles of best-in-class Invention Education activities and curricula. It also provides a research agenda to inform practices and policies.

Who is the Framework intended for?

The Framework is intended for teachers, administrators, funders, policy makers, and anyone interested in understanding or communicating the principles and characteristics of best-in-class K-12 Invention Education in both formal and informal settings.

How do I use the Framework?

You can use the Framework to help communicate the key values and principles of implementation of Invention Education to important stakeholder groups.


What is InventEd?

InventEd is an initiative to formalize and grow the Invention Education field and to increase access to all students.

Who is leading the InventEd initiative?

InventEd was launched by The Lemelson Foundation in collaboration with a diverse set of partners committed to advancing Invention Education, including The Lemelson Foundation, The Henry Ford, PBS News Hour, Lemelson-MIT, Science for Society and the Public, Design Squad Global, The United States Patent and Trademark Office and National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Exposition.

What is the purpose of the InventEd Initiative?

    • To develop and disseminate tools and resources that promote consistency and rigor in the field

    • To support, grow and convene The InventEd Network

    • To help build a research agenda to inform practices and policies

The InventEd Network

What is the InventEd Network?

The InventEd Network is a diverse group of leaders from education, government, policy, industry and more, collaborating to bring Invention Education to more students.

What are the benefits and responsibilities of joining the InventEd Network?

Over the coming weeks and months, InventEd will share more about this community and the benefits and responsibilities of engagement. First and foremost, The Network’s goal is just that – to make it easy for those who care about the future of Invention Education to find and connect with others in the field, to share resources, events and best practices for Invention Education implementation.