You may have heard that necessity is the mother of invention, but intrepid kids everywhere have been creating their own amazing machines and making life-changing discoveries too!
One of the most famous young inventors in history was a Founding Father of America: Benjamin Franklin. Born on January 17th, 1706, Franklin invented swimming fins by the time he was just 12 years old! Growing up to be a politician, postmaster, scientist, and avid inventor, he continued to create machines and technologies as distinctly different as bifocals, the lighting rod, and a musical instrument called the glass armonica.
In celebration of Franklin’s life of innovation, and all the kid inventors changing the world today, January 17th is officially Kid Inventors’ Day!
Encourage your child’s ingenuity, creativity, and independent spirit with the videos, games and activities below. Learn about life-changing inventions created by kids, how the design process can help us all solve tough problems, and what observing nature has to do with some of the most cutting edge technologies of our time!
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Check Out Kid-Created Inventions!
How “Elinor Wonders Why” Introduces Kids to Engineering
Nature is full of all sorts of inventive ideas! Learn about the unique part of the learning behind Elinor Wonders Why: exploring how kids can find inspiration in nature’s designs to solve problems.
Kid Inventor: Newspaper Crank
Watch a young inventor named Andrew demonstrate the machine he engineered to fold newspapers for his paper route. Turning a crank handle puts the first fold in a paper, and sliding a wooden shelf makes the second fold. Once the paper is folded this way, Andrew can easily slip a rubber band over it and go about his deliveries.
SciGirls | Pedal Power 03: Plan
This SciGirls video shows the girls working together and with their mentor to begin designing a bike-powered ice cream maker. In engineering, it’s important to consider different approaches and viewpoints as part of the design process. The SciGirls share their ideas and weigh the pros and cons of each as they refine their ideas for a bike-powered ice cream maker.
Kid Inventor: The Collapsible Lacrosse Stick
Let’s celebrate Kid Inventors’ Day! Do you have ideas for inventions? Get inspired by this kid inventor, who dreamed up the idea of a collapsible lacrosse stick!
The Design Process
Engineers use a series of steps called the design process to solve a problem. In this resource, featuring video segments excerpted from DESIGN SQUAD, watch teams of kids work through each of the five steps of the design process: 1) identify the problem; 2) brainstorm; 3) design; 4) build, test, evaluate, and redesign; and 5) share solutions.
13-year-old’s Invention Helping the Blind to Read
Dive into a new invention allowing the blind to print Braille more easily than ever with this video and educational materials from PBS NewsHour.
Learn About Intrepid Inventors & History-Changing Machines
Leonardo da Vinci | Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum
Learn about artist, inventor, and scientist Leonardo da Vinci with this video clip, printable biosketch reader, and support materials from Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum.
Did You Know?
Leonardo da Vinci is considered one of the greatest minds in history. He’s not only the artist behind the world famous painting the Mona Lisa, but also the creator of over 500 drawings and sketches illustrating some of the first real studies in human mechanical flight – way back in the 1480s!
Simple Machines Video Short | Science Trek
Humans have created the wonders of the world with simple machines… the pyramids, computers, even your jar of peanut butter! Teach kids all about the six types of simple machines and how they make work easier.
This video segment adapted from A Science Odyssey tells how two scientists, Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, used the research findings of Alexander Fleming to turn a natural compound, penicillin, into an effective treatment for bacterial infections. Their tests in mice and later in human patients demonstrated penicillin’s ability to cure such infections. After U.S. drug companies figured out how to mass-produce penicillin, its reputation as a “miracle drug” was established. Spurred by public support, medical research and development consequently took off.
The First Automobile Assembly Line
Discover how Henry Ford invented the first automobile assembly line and revolutionized American manufacturing in this clip from American Experience. By assigning specific tasks to workers, reorganizing the factory, and creating greater mobility on the factory floor, Ford was able to produce more Model Ts in far less time.
Hedy Lamarr | Engineering and Invention
Hedy Lamarr is commonly known as a a famous Hollywood movie star but she was also an early feminist and intrepid inventor. Discover Lamarr’s contributions as a woman in STEM in this video from the American Masters film, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story. Lamarr has received belated acknowledgement for inventing frequency hopping, the basis of secure wireless communications. But she was constantly inventing – she even had an inventing table in her trailer on movie locations!
Who Invented the Computer?
There are more than a dozen legitimate contenders to consider, all designers of unique, remarkable machines. But with facts and timelines clouded by controversy, contradictions, and intrigue, debate has raged in courtrooms and classrooms for decades.
Activities, Games & More!
Invention Engine Game
Your child can engineer a Rube Goldberg machine in this Cat in the Hat game about assembling the supplies for Fish’s birthday party celebration.
Books About Scientists and Inventors
Celebrate Kid Inventors’ Day with this picture book biography collection that will inspire your young inventor or scientist to explore how the world works!
How To Be An Inventor Digital Game | Martha Speaks
In this Martha Speaks interactive story, learn about how new devices are developed. After inventors come up with an idea to improve life, they need to try it out, make changes as needed, and then work to perfect it.
SciGirls | Crank It Up
Experiment with simple machines in this SciGirls activity where students design and create their own moving sculpture. Machines help us get work done; some are complex, with lots of moving parts, and others are simple. Cams are one example of a simple machine. They are like gears, but have no teeth and come in lots of different shapes. We use them to convert rotating motion (such as turning a crank) into back and forth motion (such as waving an arm). You’ll find cams in everyday objects such as cars, music boxes, wooden automata, and toys.
Invent an App That Helps Your Community: Lesson Plan | PBS NewsHour
How does the food you eat make it to your kitchen table? How has technology made that process easier? Several young entrepreneurs in California’s rural Salinas Valley are inventing new apps to boost the economy and bring about new jobs. In this PBS NewsHour lesson, students will learn about the invention process and design an app that helps their community.