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"Inventors" Teacher Guide

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Why Do People Invent?

Some do it to meet basic needs; others invent to fulfill creative desires. There are still those, too, who do it for economic reasons: making money can be a strong incentive. For one thing, it allows individuals, companies, and nations to stay ahead of the competition. People have also invented for social reasons -- for comfort, security, hygiene, and health -to make life easier. Imagine a world without the washing machine, telephone, or airplane.

Iowans Get Inventive

What about right here in our own state? After reading this issue of The Goldfinch, you're aware that quite a number of inventive things have occurred in Iowa as well. To date, people from Iowa have created such innovative inventions as the Eskimo Pie, Sheaffer pen, merry-go-round, and nylon.

What about our younger inventors? In our article about kid inventor Nicholas Schrunk, Nicholas's pet guinea pig, Freckles, needed exercise, so he developed the Motorized Guinea Pig Walker. As a result, he won the state Invent, Iowa! competition and received an honorary patent signed by the governor.

The Invention Convention.

Our History Makers section proves that other youngsters have also had their hands full creating a variety of inventions. We reported that through Invent, Iowa!, a state-wide program that teachers creative thinking and problem solving through the invention process, 38,000 youngsters representing more than 100 cities in Iowa competed, showcasing such inventions as glow-in-the-dark eyeglass frames to a bottle feeding station for calves.

The Write Stuff

In this issue of The Goldfinch, we feature an article on Walter Sheaffer. And for good reason. If this Fort Madison jeweler did not leave the jewelry business back in 1912, we would not have what has come to be known today as the Sheaffer pen. Essentially, Walter Sheaffer invented a lever mechanism that fits smoothly into the pen's barrel, and with a single stroke, you're able to fill the pen's reservoir with ink directly from the bottle. Today, this Fort Madison company distributes Sheaffer pens to more than 150 countries around the world.

The Patent Process.

What comes after the invention process is complete? Patenting. Since 1836, sixty thousand Iowans (six million worldwide) have received patents for their inventions. Patents aren't issued for good ideas alone. The inventions have to be useful and have to work. To apply for a patent, an inventor must submit a written document describing the invention along with a claim as to why it is new and distinct, provide an oath as to truth and accuracy, provide drawings of the invention, and pay filing fees of up to one thousand dollars.

What's the Big Idea?

All you need to create an invention is a big idea. And, as we've seen in this issue, there are many Iowans, young and old, who have turned dreams into reality. Who knows? Maybe the next invention will come from one of your students.

Summary and Discussion Questions

Page 4

Inventors and Inventions from A to Z: Describes the types of inventions Iowans havecreated over the years.

Discussion Questions

  1. What would Iowa be like withoutinventions?
  2. What sort of inventions relate to need? Convenience?
  3. What kind ofimpact have Iowa inventions had on the world?

Page 14

Patents: Emphasizes the patent process.

Discussion Questions

  1. How does one applyfor a patent?
  2. What does patent pending mean?

Page 16

Inventor's Crossword Puzzle: Crossword puzzle concerning inventors and their inventions.

Page 17

History Mystery: Read about Iowa women who have received patents, then match themwith their inventions.

Page 20

Write Women Back Into History: Story of a generous woman who invented Master Mix.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you think it was common in Gertrude Sunderlin's day to receive the sort of education that she did? What does that say about the woman or the times she lived in?
  2. After inventing Master Mix, Gertrude published copies of the Master Mix book, distributed the books and food made from Master Mix. Why don't you think she wanted to patent her idea?

Page 21

Nicholas Schrunk: Kid Inventor: Tells how a student from Spirit Lake invented amotorized walker for his guinea pig.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you considerinventing easy or difficult?
  2. How important is creativity in inventing?

Page 22

What's the Big Idea?: Tells how Walter Sheaffer created the world-famous Sheaffer pen.

Discussion Questions

  1. How would you market an invention?
  2. Would you name aninvention after yourself? Why or why not?
  3. Sheaffer risked losing everything for hisinvention. Would you?

Page 24

Dear Diary: Shows how inventions--especially the telephone-affected one woman in the early 1900s.

Discussion Questions

  1. Think about some of the inventions you use everyday. How have they affected your life?
  2. Do you remember when these inventions were new?
  3. Mary Eleanor Armstrong's diary suggests she was initially scared of, or perhaps intimidated by, the telephone. Have you ever been afraid of new technology or new inventions?

Page 25

Be a Diary Detective: Activity where you dig into Mary Eleanor Armstrong's diary andanswer questions raised by the featured entries.

Page 26-27

History Makers: Shows students from different Iowa cities participating in a state-widecompetition showcasing their inventions.

Discussion Questions

  1. What kind ofinvention would you create? Why?
  2. How unique is your invention?
  3. How would it benefit others?

Page 28-29

Fiction: The Dream Computer: A fictionalized account of the impact the ABComputer,invented at Iowa State University, had on our society.

Discussion Questions

  1. If the ABComputer had not been invented, what effect would that have had on you? Society?
  2. What sort of inventions do you foresee in the future concerning computers and high technology?
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