Be Inspired, Be an Innovator!

Expand/Collapse Be Inspired, Be an Innovator!


This collection of targeted video segments, audio files, lesson plans, and guides is designed to give you the tools you need to drive innovative thinking among middle and high school students. Featured resources explore the critical and creative skills that engineers, inventors, musicians, farmers, and scientists rely on to develop the innovative products and processes that underpin our everyday lives.

For more tips on how to inspire innovative thinking in your classroom, join our special guest panel of educators for a live webinar on 2/4/14. Sign up here!

  • Extreme By Design

    Extreme by Design, an hour-long documentary film, follows forty students from Stanford University's Institute of Design (also known as the d.school) who want to change the world—and the educational revolution that’s making it possible.

    To supplement the documentary Extreme By Design - Watch & Do is an interactive experience designed for 4th through 12th grade students, complete with a Lesson Plan (above) and two student activities (below).

    Grades: 6-12
  • Process of Innovation Lesson Plan

    Students will compare and contrast the processes of innovation favored by different types of innovators to demonstrate that innovation need not follow a single method.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • Galileo's Telescope

    Contrary to what many people think, Galileo did not invent the telescope. In this video segment adapted from NOVA, the Italian physicist and mathematician improves on an existing spyglass design to create a more powerful one -- a refracting telescope that he then used to study the night sky.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Smart Bridges

    This video segment adapted from NOVA scienceNOW features two engineering innovations designed to improve structural safety in bridges. The video shows how sound waves can be used to detect cracks in steel and other signs of bridge instability undetected by the human eye. A second approach involves painting onto the bridge a "sensing skin" made of microscopic carbon nanotubes that use electrical currents to reveal structural damage or weak spots. This resource is useful for introducing components of Engineering Design (ETS) from the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to grades 6-12 students.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Eduardo Torres-Jara

    In this video from Science City, meet Eduardo Torres-Jara, a postdoctoral associate in electrical engineering and computer science at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab. He describes his work on innovative robots that use tactile feedback to locate and grasp objects.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Secrets of Selfridges: Part 6

    In this segment of Secrets of Selfridges, learn how Selfridge’s groundbreaking innovations such as the first-floor cosmetic department have inspired modern retail psychology. Due to Edwardian trends of the time, his competitors usually hid makeup away on higher floors, but Selfridge challenged the notion of the time by placing everything together at the front of the store. His novel idea has now become the template for department stores around the world. When WWI began in 1914, some department stores turned the war to their advantage. Selfridges posted record annual profits by the end of the war allowing him to add an extension to the store just in time for the economic boom of the 1920s.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Solving the Doctor Shortage in Mozambique

    This video from Wide Angle provides an overview of the issue of maternal mortality in Mozambique and an innovative program to try to tackle this problem. The program trains midwives and nurses to perform cesareans and other life-saving procedures during pregnancy and delivery.

    Grades: 9-12
  • China’s Innovative Past

    For more than a thousand years, China led the world in innovation. And then, about 500 years ago, it lost its creative edge to the West. As China’s Communist Party prepares to celebrate 60 years in power, China hopes to regain its advantage. This audio segment from PRI's The World Science Podcast explores the roots of China's creative past, and the geographical, political, and economic factors that might have contributed to its apparent demise.

    The World Science Podcast is a weekly production of The World.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Technology Over Time

    In this interactive activity adapted from A Science Odyssey, learn how technology in the home has changed through the years. Scroll through a timeline from 1900 to 2010 to explore technological innovations in the home (such as phonographs, telephones, refrigerators, radios, televisions, and computers), and read about how they were developed and adapted and how they changed the way people live.

    Grades: 3-8
  • Ethanol Biofuel

    This video segment adapted from NOVA examines ethanol, a cleaner-burning fuel alternative to gasoline, and the efforts to produce it more efficiently. Today, most ethanol in the United States is made from corn kernels. But converting corn into ethanol requires lots of energy as well as corn, which might otherwise be used to feed people and livestock. The video features research efforts to use less valuable plant matter, called cellulosic biomass, and microorganisms that may be able to accomplish the conversion from plant matter to fuel in a single step.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Innovation through Experimentation: Kiyoe Wellington

    In this performance video segment from From the Top at Carnegie Hall, fifteen-year-old double bassist Kiyoe Wellington plays a haunting piece by French composer François Rabbath on her grandfather's double bass, accompanied by pianist Christopher O'Riley. Listen for the low, sonorous tones that convey great depth of feeling.

    Grades: 5-12
  • Forgotten Inventors

    Even when it looks as though an invention came about by accident, almost invariably there was a creative and determined inventor behind the scenes, turning an idea into a reality. This illustrated feature from the American Experience Web site, describes the events that led to some very useful inventions -- and the inventors responsible for them.
    Grades: 3-12
  • Green Technology: Sustaining the Earth

    In this interactive activity produced for Teachers' Domain, explore five different areas of research and innovation in green technology: renewable energy and conservation; green building; transportation; manufacturing; and pollution and waste management. Within the categories, investigate examples of innovations in solar power, biofuels, energy efficiency, materials efficiency, planes and trains, automobiles, electronic paper, consumer electronics, carbon capture and storage, and bioremediation.

    Grades: 6-12
  • iFarm

    Support your STEM and Social Studies curriculum with this video that profiles a California pistachio farmer who developed an iPad app to improve irrigation. Then, use the accompanying lesson plan, "Old MacDonald Had an iPad: Tracing Technological Innovations in Agriculture," to have students research historical and contemporary agricultural innovations.

     

    This video is available in both English and Spanish audio, along with corresponding closed captions.

    Grades: 7-13+
  • Speeding Up Space Travel

    Learn about innovations in rocket technology that could change the way humans explore space in this video excerpt from NOVA scienceNOW: "Can We Make It to Mars?" Correspondent Jake Ward looks at the hazards of long-term space travel, the limitations of chemical rockets, and new kinds of rockets that are faster and more efficient. Astrophysicist and former astronaut Franklin Chang-Díaz explains his work on VASIMR, a rocket that directs hot plasma through a magnetic nozzle for propulsion. A plasma rocket could make a round-trip flight to Mars in just five months (compared to 2.5 years with a conventional rocket) and would transform space exploration.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Simple Solutions

    The most valuable contributions engineers make to humanity are probably not high-tech electronics, but, rather, they are simple and inexpensive solutions that make life better for large populations of people: inventions such as a cheap and easy-to-use water-testing devices. In this video, mechanical engineer Amy Smith explains the design process for an innovation that enables poor people in isolated villages to determine whether their water supplies are free of dangerous bacteria. This resource is useful for introducing components of Engineering Design (ETS) from the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to grade 3-12 students.

    Grades: 3-12

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