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Inspiring the Next Generation of Innovators at the 2024 RTX Invention Convention U.S. Nationals, a Blog by Jenny Frank

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Even a kindergartner knows it’s not good to show your cards. Overcoming that challenge of tiny hands holding many cards spurred one child’s imagination and led to an award-winning invention.The young inventor took home a third-place prize in the 2024 Raytheon Technologies Invention Convention U.S. Nationals for their winning entry “Playing Cards Holder – Focus on Winning, Not on Holding Cards”. The convention was hosted by The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Michigan, from June 5-7, 2024, and brought together over 300 of the brightest young inventors from kindergarten through high school from across the country to showcase their innovative solutions to real-world problems. I had the incredible opportunity to serve as a judge and partner.

Student inventors had an opportunity to learn more about story mapping and ARC GIS in a hands-on session presented by Jarell Brown, Head of Analytics & Business Intelligence l Principal Innovator of the Innovation Atlas. 

 

The Power of Innovation

Invention Convention is an amazing K-12 program that engages students in hands-on invention education to build crucial skills in problem identification, problem-solving, creativity and entrepreneurship. According to a recent survey, “nearly 90% of employers responding to the Job Outlook 2024 survey indicated they are seeking evidence of a student’s ability to solve problems and nearly 80% are seeking candidates who have strong teamwork skills” (Gray, 2024). Throughout the school year, more than 166,000 students participate in local and regional competitions, with top inventors earning the opportunity to present their creations at the prestigious U.S. Nationals event.

The inventions ran the gamut from the card holder to one high school senior’s Corneal Applanation Suturing Model that won an Invention Award for Societal Benefit presented by The Lemelson Foundation. There was also a “Heel Healer” described as a novel wearable sensor for early detection of plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the foot that causes a person unbearable stabbing pains on the bottom of their feet. And who could resist a No Spotty Potty, which won an award in the household organization and appliances category?  

This year’s U.S. Nationals was a multi-day experience filled with excitement and inspiration. Students presented their inventions to panels of expert judges, networked with fellow inventors and special guests, participated in educational activities, and were recognized at an awards ceremony. A thrilling addition to the event was the opportunity for select inventors to audition for the hit TV show Shark Tank. These young entrepreneurs pitched their inventions to the show’s producers for a chance to appear on the program and secure investments to take their creations to the next level. 

As a judge, I was blown away by the creativity, passion, and presentation skills demonstrated by these young inventors. It was an honor to provide constructive feedback and encouragement to help them further develop their innovative mindsets and abilities. These students are proof that invention education has the power to cultivate the next generation of problem-solvers and changemakers.

The full list of winners can be found here

 

Why Invention Convention Matters for STEM Learning Ecosystems

Beyond the competition, Invention Convention U.S. Nationals provides educators with a flexible, project-based curriculum to bring invention education into the classroom, giving young people access to strategies that promote the skills required for such possibilities. The program is part of The Henry Ford’s inHub initiative, which offers an array of valuable support to spur innovative teaching and learning, including professional development, historically-contextualized content from their Archive of American Innovation, and a global community of 7,500 like-minded educators. Invention Convention provides a unique opportunity for STEM Learning Ecosystems (SLEs) to support the development of critical skills that will drive innovation,economic growth, and the creation of jobs in their communities. By fostering problem-solving, creativity and entrepreneurship in young people, SLEs can help build a diverse pipeline of talented innovators who can power new technologies that change the way we work and live, as well as offer the possibility of eradicating our most pressing challenges, disease and more. will contribute to the success of local businesses, industries and research institutions.

It was incredibly rewarding to witness firsthand the impact that invention education is having on developing young people’s confidence, capabilities and aspirations to make a difference in the world. By getting involved with Invention Convention, SLEs can help empower the next generation of STEM innovators and entrepreneurs. Together, we can help students develop the skills and mindsets they need to become the problem-solvers and changemakers our communities and world need.

 

How to bring critical-thinking and problem-solving skills to your community: 

  • Connect with existing inventors in your community and get inspired. Congratulations to the 2024 RTX Invention Convention U.S. Nationals winners! You can find the complete list of awardees here. Review the list, connect with partners, and celebrate winning inventors from your community.
  • Bring the resources to your learning spaces; become an affiliate: You can become Invention Convention affiliates to bring the program directly to their communities. Affiliates receive access to resources, training and support to implement the curriculum and host local competitions.
  • Partner with an existing affiliate: If there is already an Invention Convention affiliate in your area, consider partnering with them to expand the program’s reach and impact. You can provide support through event sponsorship, volunteer recruitment, and community outreach.
  • Spread the word: Help raise awareness about Invention Convention by sharing information about the program with educators, schools and youth organizations in your community. Encourage them to get involved and bring invention education to their students.
  • Share your expertise: Support Invention Convention by offering your expertise, offer connections to other leaders, and share some of your resources to help the program thrive. This could include providing mentors for student inventors, connecting the program with local STEM professionals and organizations, or offering space for events and competitions.

 

About STEM Learning Ecosystems Community of Practice (SLECoP) powered by TIES

The STEM Learning Ecosystems Community of Practice (SLECoP), with its network of 114+ communities and a footprint of approximately 70 million students, plays a crucial role in supporting and empowering STEM Learning Ecosystems (SLEs) worldwide. As the backbone organization, TIES facilitates collaboration, knowledge sharing, and collective problem-solving through regular exchanges, webinars, newsletters, and an annual convening. By bringing together cross-sector partners, SLEs improve STEM opportunities for underserved populations and align learning pathways with local workforce needs. Recognized as a top strategy by the U.S. Office of Science, Technology Policy and cited in the $52 billion CHIPS and Science Act, the SLECoP has demonstrated its ability to drive measurable gains in communities, empowering SLEs to create sustainable and innovative solutions that ensure equitable access to STEM education and career opportunities for all learners.

 

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