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Rules Guidelines Judging Awards Examples Tasks Links

Why are we having an Invention Convention?

Some of our greatest inventions and ideas have come from someone thinking about how to do something different or better than it's been done before. I want to encourage that kind of thinking in our 5th grade classroom!


A Full Invention Convention Process

  1. May 4-22 - (Task A) At school, work with Mrs. Nettling to choose an inventor, research the inventor, write a report, then submit your inventor report. The actual research, bibliography, and report will be completed at school with teacher support. Depending on the inventor you choose, you may need to find sources of information at home or community library.
  2. May 4-9 - (Task B) At school and home, brainstorm problems you think of or observe in your journal.
  3. May 9-18 - (Task C) At school and home, brainstorm solutions you think of for three of your most interesting problems in your journal.
  4. May 17-21 - (Task D) At school, choose the solution you are most interested in turning into an invention, then draw a diagram of that invention! Submit your invention's labeled diagram for approval.
  5. May 22 - (Task E) At home, fill out your disclosure forms, then bring them to school for approval.
  6. May 18-29 - (Task F) CREATE YOUR INVENTION AT HOME! Work on making your invention, changing and resubmitting diagrams and disclosure forms as needed along the way. You can get help from your parents, but the actual idea and most of the work should be your own. Remember: failures and redesigns are part of the invention process. It is totally to be expected that you will have to start over with your invention as you work to make it the way it needs to be. You may even find that you need to go back to your brainstorming lists and start over, selecting a new idea! Once you have your invention completed, think about your marketing plan -- how will you get people interested in purchasing your new invention?
  7. May 29At school, work on your tri-folded poster display. You may want to bring special photos of someone using your invention or other graphics from home to add to your display.
  8. May 29 - Bring your invention to school by 9:00 a.m.
  9. May 30 - Inventions and tri-folded posters will be on display at school for other students to see.


What do I need to know about the Invention Convention?

Before getting started, read all the information so that you know what you need to do, and how!



1.      Each student in my class must participate (grade requirement) and meet the deadlines.

2.      Each student must follow the Invention and Display Guidelines.

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Invention and Display Guidelines

1.      Your invention must be your own original idea. It's okay to ask an adult for help when it is time to build your invention, especially with safety and gathering materials, but the actual idea and main effort should still be your own. Also, remember that your invention doesn't have to be a thing; it can also be a process or a better way of doing something.

2.      Keep in mind that your display area will only be 2 feet by 3 feet, so if your invention is bigger than that, you will need to build a model of it to display instead.

3.      Your invention and display materials should all be created safely, carefully, and neatly. Your invention must be inexpensive ($20.00 maximum)

4.      Do NOT include:

a.       Expensive or non-replaceable personal property

b.      Live animals

c.       Matches or flames

d.      Chemicals that are flammable or otherwise dangerous

e.       Parts too fragile to be handled

f.        Uncontained messes

g.       Batteries that work for long periods of time (electric projects should use momentary switches or other switches that automatically turn off when you let go of them)

h.       Electricity passing through non-insulated wire

i.         Anything dangerous.

j.        NOTE: Electrical outlets are limited and will be available on a first-come first-serve basis.

5.      Your display MUST:

a.       include your “Inventor's Journal” showing your brainstorming lists, your plans, diagrams, and other inventor's notes.

b.      fit on a student desktop. Inventions or models may be no larger than 2 feet by 3 feet.

c.   be a creative, neat, organized presentation. Mrs. Nettling will provide a display board for you to use.

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Entries will be reviewed by a panel of judges which may include district staff members, members of the community, or scientists or inventors. Click to see the actual Judging Form.



Judging will be based on:

Overall Impression of the Invention  

o      Creativity. Does the invention show imaginative problem solving?

o      Originality. Does the invention provide a novel solution?  

o      Complexity. Does the invention show significant depth and attention to detail?

o      Innovation. Is this a pioneering invention or an incremental improvement? 

Presentation of the Invention Display

o      Statement of problem. How well was the problem stated?  

o      Statement of solution. How well does the solution address the stated problem? 

o      Schematic Diagram. How effective was the diagram in illustrating the idea?

Invention Relevance  

o      Impact. How significant is the problem being solved?

o      Practicality. Could this invention be made into a working device?

o      Contribution. Does the invention solve a problem of importance to others?

o      Earth-Friendly. Is this invention sensitive to our growing needs to be friendly to the Earth? 


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Any participant who enters and fulfills the requirements as stated will be recognized. In addition, ribbons will be awarded to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners. 





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What are some examples of inventions used in the past?

Here are some examples (found on the Internet) of student inventions in the past. Although you cannot use these, they may help you get started thinking about some new ideas of your own. 


  • A device that cleans gutters

  • A rain poncho designed for use when riding a bicycle

  • A lunch-box alarm that goes off when an unauthorized person opens it

  • A bird feeder that protects feed from the wind and rain

  • A toothpaste cap that minimizes waste and mess

  • A dog collar that lights up at night

  • A bedspread that zips down the middle

  • Safety suspenders that light up at night for joggers or bikers

  • A newspaper launcher

  • A new type of rake that allows you to pick up leaves without bending over

  • A robot that distributes and collects student papers

  • A glove with a light for signaling turns when riding a bike at night

  • A drying rack for gloves

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How do I get started inventing?

Easy! Do the tasks by going through the steps below, and you will be on your way towards being an inventor! 1


Important Dates for Student Tasks


Task A


On your own, collect resources about your  inventor. At school, we will work together to write a research report on your inventor!



May 22nd





Inventor Report: Write about your favorite inventor

Learn about and write a report on an inventor. You can get started by reading about inventors. Check out books in our classroom, local, or school libraries. Also, you can check out some famous inventors on the Internet. Once you have decided on a favorite inventor, you will need to:

  1. Get your inventor approved by Mrs. Nettling.

  2. Collect research on that person. You must have two or three sources. Once you have the research resources, we can work together at school to write a report on your inventor.

  3. You will need to keep track of your sources. A Bibliography naming your sources will be your final page.

  4. Organize your writing on one of the graphic organizers. Use keywords as you organize. You will wait to write the complete sentences until after you have your thoughts organized.

  5. Write a 5-paragraph report about that inventor.

  6. Make a Cover Page for your report.

  7. Final Draft Publication form for your report. We will use collaborative final-editing strategies to prepare your published copy: a writing buddy, adult, or teacher will look at your revised and edited draft. Use your best cursive handwriting or keyboarding skills for your final draft.

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Task B


In class and at home keep a running journal of problems that you see around you.



May 4 through May 9





Journal: Brainstorm problems

You will keep an "Inventors Journal" in which you write about your ideas and thinking process.

  1. Be a dreamer! Think about things that people need in order to make life or everyday activities better, easier, or cheaper. Think of problems that need to be solved. Observe your friends, family, and pets. Talk to people about something they would like to see changed. They may have problems you've never thought about before! 

  2. Brainstorm a list of problems that you have thought about. Now that you have mentally brainstormed the problems you would like to solve, list them in your notebook. This notebook will be your "Inventors Journal". Whenever you think of another problem that needs solving, write about it in your journal. Some inventors take their journals with them wherever they go.

  3. Narrow your list down to one problem you think you can solve and is interesting to you. Write that one problem at the top of the next page of your journal.

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Task C


In class and at home keep a running journal of solutions to the problem that you chose.



May 9 through May 18









Journal: Brainstorm solutions

  1. Next, think about how to solve the problem. Think of lots of solutions! Some solutions that you think of will not make sense, others will. Your solution doesn't have to be a thing; it can also be a process or a better way of doing something. List the solutions in your journal, and briefly describe what they might look like if you actually made them.
  2. Which one of your solutions could you actually make yourself or with just a little bit of adult help? Choose the idea that seems like the best, and write it at the top of the next page of your journal.
  3. Once you've decided which solution you'll use, ask yourself these questions:
  • Is my invention really a new idea?

  • Is it useful?

  • Can it be made easily?

  • Does it use materials that are easily available?

  • Will it hold up after lots of use?

  • Is my solution within the "Guidelines for Inventions"?

  • And, will people really use it?

If any of the answers to your questions are "no," think of how you might change your idea. Inventors change ideas all the time.

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Task D


At school, draw and label  diagrams of your invention.


May 21


Journal: Make your invention plan

  1. Once all the answers to your questions are "yes," draw pictures of how your invention should look. Your first drawing is a rough draft. It shows the basic idea of what the invention will look like.
  2. Redraw the invention until it looks exactly right. This may take lots of tries! Label all the parts. This drawing should be presentation quality. It will be a critical piece of the judging!
  3. List the materials you'll need to make your invention.

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Task E


At home, complete the Disclosure Forms.


May 22


Disclosure Forms: Get your idea approved

Complete both pages of the Student Invention Disclosure Forms, and submit them to Mrs. Nettling. Your invention idea must be approved before you go any further. You can download the forms here. Forms...



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Task F


At home, create your invention.



May 21 through 29



Making It Real: Create your invention!

Build it! Double-check the Invention Convention Guidelines for Inventions, get your materials together, and DO IT! Build a model or a prototype of your invention. Try it out to see if it works. Don't worry if it doesn't work the first time, keep trying. If you have time to modify it, go ahead. If it never does what you want it to, that's ok! Remember, you invented the IDEA too! If you are inventing a new way to do something (a process) write out your process on a display board and describe how it is different from other ways of doing the same thing. We will take time in class to discuss your progress and troubleshoot any problems you may be having.

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Task G


Work on  your display board at school on May 29th. 


Bring your invention to school on
May 29th.


Students will tour the displays on May 30th.








Invention Convention 2012: Display your invention!

  • Display Board and Marketing Plan. How will you convince others to consider the merits of your Invention? If you were going to sell it, how would you persuade people to buy? What slogans or catchy phrases can you use to get their attention, and keep your product in their memories? Together in class, we will work on ways to consider your audience, consider your Invention, and market your Invention. You will actually do the work on your display board at home. You can work on fancy lettering and artwork for your display at home, too. Your display boards will serve as a backdrop for your invention. Here is some help for your display boards. Display Board Help

IMPROVED!         Saves Time!

  • Show your Invention at the Invention Convention. Double-check the "Invention Convention Guidelines for Displays", then work to make your project look as good as possible. Learn all you can about how your invention works and what it is good for so that you can clearly indicate its uses as part of your display. Be ready to answer questions. Now... Congratulations! You are an inventor!
  • May 29 - Work on  Display Boards at school
  • May 29 - Inventions must be at school by 9:00 a.m. Judging will take place after school hours.
  • May 30 - Inventions will be on display for Grigsby students to see in our classrooom: 2012 Invention Convention!

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Related Links

Thinking Like an Inventor

  • Industrial Revolution and Inventions
    To set the backdrop on how inventions really do impact society, check out this online workshop about inventions and the Industrial Revolution. This is great background for knowing why an inventor is motivated to seek out new solutions for doing things.
  • ThinkQuest
    This page has new inventions by kids in schools. If you are interested in using your creativity and making your own inventions, then this page is for you.
  • Inventors Toolbox
    Simple Machines: These devices were all in common use for centuries before Leonardo's time. Each one makes work easier to do by providing some trade-off between the force applied and the distance over which the force is applied.
  • Kids Design Network
    With Kids Design Network, you'll investigate a challenge, dream up a design, and draw your plans on the computer. Then, using the Internet, you can show your design to a real engineer.
  • Innovative Lives
    Inventors are innovative. Take a look at this Smithsonian website that offers lots of testimony that innovative thinking is energy that thrives today.
  • Ronald J. Riley's Kids Inventor Resource
    Absolutely everything you want to know about inventors, inventions, thinking like an inventor, going through the invention process, and how to prevent yourself from being scammed.
  • Chronology of Past Franklin County Invention Convention Winners
    Here are the winners of past Invention Conventions in Franklin County. They should inspire you to think of new problems to solve .. no copying!

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  • Yahooligans Search for Inventors
    Lists results from Yahooligans search on the word "Inventors".
  • Inventors Handbook
    Celebrates those inventors who have turned their ideas into accomplishments.
  • Leonardo DaVinci
    Highlights some of Leonardo's futuristic inventions, lets you explore the elements of machines, lets you try analyzing Leonardo's inventions, and gives you a chance to design your own invention. Leonardo's Perspective introduces Leonardo's way of looking at the world in 2D and 3D. You can also see a bio and some of his other interests.
  • Scavenger Hunt 1 and Scavenger Hunt 2
    Provides a fun way to get acquainted with inventors and inventions on the net.
  • Thomas Edison Invents
    The Smithsonian offers an illustrated online story about Edison, Menlo Park, and the many inventions of Edison.
  • Thomas Jefferson
    See how this Great American invented ways to make living better and more efficient.

  • KidInfo Links
    KidInfo list of links for inventors and inventions.
  • Forgotten Inventors
    PBS highlights inventors who are all but forgotten (but not their inventions)!

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Domestic Inventions

  • R. Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion House
    Best known as the inventor of the geodesic dome, "Bucky" campaigned his entire life for responsible conservation of the earth's resources to avoid ecological disaster. This website will remind you of a particular home in Carlisle!
  • Domestic Technology - Part 1
    See how technology impacted housework in the 19th century home, and thus the roles and people in them!
  • USDA's Science 4 Kids
    Lots of fun connections between the earth's resources and how we apply scientific thinking in using them in our everyday lives.

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Flight Inventions

  • Flights of Inspiration
    This site about flight offers information on both the science and history of flight. Created by American and British museums, it offers students a chance to explore both the people who pioneered flight and the aerodynamics they had to master to get airborne.
  • The Wright Brothers: The Invention of the Aerial Age
    Smithsonian website about the Wright Brothers and their journey to invent flight.
  • Wright Brothers
    Henry Ford Museum's website highlighting the lives and accomplishments of the Wright Brothers.
  • United States Air Force Museum
    Wright Patterson Air Force Base (right here in Dayton, Ohio!) is the home of this wonderful museum of Air Force history!

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  • U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
    Official government site for patents and trademarks.
  • Thomas Edison's Patents
    No other inventor has approached the number of patents issued to Thomas Edison, singly or jointly - 1093. This Henry Ford Museum website also provides additional info about Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and more.
  • Wacky Patents
    Wacky patent of the month, plus past wacky patents are highlighted on this site.

1 The ideas for these steps are adapted from the book The Kids' Invention Book by Arlene Erlbach.


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