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MIT Expands High School Invention Program

A new program out of MIT promises to introduce high school students to the wonders of invention. The Lemelson–MIT Program announced the launch of the Junior Varsity (JV) InvenTeam initiative, with pilots going on in Massachusetts and Texas.

The work is based on the original InvenTeams, which gives grants of up to $10,000 to teams of high school students, teachers and mentors to invent solutions to real-world problems. The teams choose their own problems to solve. The first grants were issued in 2002; 95 teams have been funded since then. Among the current projects being funded:

The JV program is intended specifically for ninth and 10th graders to provide hands-on skills that can help them move up to participation in InvenTeam. For example, corporate sponsor Stanley Black & Decker has donated hand and power tools for use by the students.

"Students learn how to safely use tools and explore new materials, building a strong foundation in scientific and technical skills. Guidebooks and activities created for teachers and students and access to a network of invention education experts provide JV InvenTeams with the resources they need to excel in hands-on STEM opportunities," said Joshua Schuler, executive director of the Lemelson–MIT Program.

Among the pilot schools is John H. Reagan High School in Houston. "The JV InvenTeam experience will help build students' confidence in their ability to become inventors, makers, fixers and entrepreneurs," said Teacher Rachel Alexander. "Our hope is that students learn to collaborate in a competitive environment, communicate ideas, brainstorm and persist even in the face of adversity."

JV InvenTeam leaders anticipate expanding the program to California and the Pacific Northwest in 2015.

Both initiatives are funded by the Lemelson Foundation, which was established by American inventor Jerome Lemelson and his wife Dorothy in 1992. During his lifetime, Lemelson's name appeared on more than 600 patents.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.