Ideas for a School Project on Inventions

The telephone is arguably one of the most important inventions in history.
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There are many inventions which have changed lives and altered the course of society in general. Investigative school projects on inventions could focus on the Who, What, When, Where and Why of inventions.

1 Famous Inventors

We might use a telephone or a computer everyday, but at one time those things didn't exist and it was up to some visionary to conceive of that piece of technology in the first place. A project on famous inventors could not only shed light on everyday items, but also provide insight into the minds of people who came up with revolutionary ideas. These inventors could be from the relatively distant past, like Galileo or Gutenberg, or they could be modern visionaries, like Sergey Brin (one of the developers of Google) or Steve Jobs.

2 Timeline and Locations of Inventions

Throughout human history, certain times and places served as incubators for an explosion of inventions. During the 11th and 12th centuries in China, inventors developed the movable type press, the compass and explosives. Starting with the late 18th century, the United States has been a hotbed of invention. Early American inventors devised ways to use electricity, the cotton gin and the submarine. Later, Americans would invent the laser, human-powered flight and the artificial heart. A project might look into why certain times and places were so fertile.

3 Most Important Inventions

There have been so many great inventions throughout history, but which ones are the most revolutionary or significant? There are several ways we could investigate the ideas of the world's greatest inventions. Find a survey of the general public or a panel of experts, focused on inventions from a specific time period or aspect of society, like computer technology. A list of top inventions or inventors could then be analyzed for their importance to society, with you supplying reasons to agree or disagree with some of the rankings.

4 The Impetus for Invention

There are three main drivers for invention: fill a need, satisfy a demand or solve a problem. A school project might focus on why a certain bit of technology was invented or the story behind it. For example, Alexander Graham Bell was inspired to develop the telephone partially through his regular visitations with his hearing-impaired mother who lived in Canada. A desire to help his mother's hearing problems led him to his development of the first microphone and later the first telephone.

Brett Smith is a science journalist based in Buffalo, N.Y. A graduate of the State University of New York - Buffalo, he has more than seven years of experience working in a professional laboratory setting.