Young Inventors' ProgramŽ

How-to Guide

Keeping An Inventors' Journal

The Inventor's Journal is the official record of your invention process. It is an ongoing record of all the events, actions, experiments, and observations you make during the entire development of your invention.

A spiral or any bound notebook makes a good journal. You can also make your own notebook by stapling pages together with a construction or computer-generated paper cover.

Review the following suggestions before you start your Inventor's Journal:

Identifying Problems

Inventors are people who solve problems. Inventors figure out new and easier ways to do things.
Be a detective and look for problems to solve. Problems are everywhere if you learn to recognize them.

What's Bugging You?

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Problems All Around You

Asking questions and recording the answers is called taking a survey. Surveys are very important in the development of new products and services.

Ask other people what problems they have around their homes, neighborhoods, or jobs that could be solved by a new invention. You might interview your family members, friends, neighbors, or teachers and record their responses in your journal.

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Problem to Solve

Look at all the problems in your Inventor's Journal. Ask yourself which problem is most interesting.

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Solving Problems


Let your imagination run wild and list as many ideas as you can think of to solve your problem.

These ideas can be silly or serious. This is called brainstorming. In your Inventor's Journal write all of your ideas. Don't forget to sign and date your journal and have it witnessed by an adult. Take time and let your ideas grow. In your Inventor's Journal draw a picture of what you think your invention will look like.

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Picking the Best Idea

From all your brainstorming, chose one idea that you think would be the best solution to your problem. Be sure it is one that excites you.

In your Inventor's Journal complete the following sentence:


Making Plans

Now that you have an idea for your invention, you must decide if it meets certain standards. Think about the following questions and respond to them in your journal. The answers may help you improve your invention.

Product Researching

You need to take some steps to determine whether or not your idea is really new and original. Find out if there is anything like your invention by:

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Naming Your Invention

Many inventors like to name their inventions as soon as they choose an idea. Others wait until later. Whenever you name your invention, you should like the name and it should help you to describe your invention. If you decide to market your invention, a good name will help you.

There are many ways to name your invention. First, look at the examples below. Then think about your own invention. Try out your name ideas on your family and friends until you find something you like. In your Inventor's Journal list all your ideas and circle the one you like best.

Rhyming names: yo-yo, Piggly Wiggly, tutti-frutti

Names using the Inventor's name: Levi's (jeans), Goodyear tires, Ford, Heinz ketchup, Frisbee

Names with repeating sounds: Kit Kat, Silly String, Tinker Toys, Beanie Babies

Descriptive names: cotton ball, Rice Krispies, Dustbuster, slime,toothbrush,

Named for the ingredient: Corn Flakes, steel-belted radials, ice-cream, peanut butter, soap suds

Names with initials or an acronym: Laser (Light Amplification by Simulated Emission of Radiation), VCR (Video Cassette Recorder), SST (Supersonic Transport), CD (Compact Disk), Scuba (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus), RAM (Random Access Memory)

Named for its function - the way it works: sunglasses, doghouse, squirt gun, Post-it Notes

Names with funny and clever words : Silly Putty, Cool Whip, flip flops

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Drawing Your Invention

All inventors make drawings of their inventions to show how they work. In your Inventor's Journal sketch some of your ideas and pick what you think will work the best. All drawings should be labeled, dated, and briefly explained.

Constructing A Model of Your Invention

Now that you know what you want to invent and have a drawing of your invention, you can make a model of it. A model will help you discover if your invention really works. In your Inventor's Journal you will need to make a list of supplies and tools you think will be necessary. You may want to consult with your teacher or parent when you get to this stage. They can help you make a chart in your Inventor's Journal to keep track of the information about materials and prices.

You must have adult permission and supervision to use tools and work with electricity. Safety glasses are essential.

Be sure to record in your Inventor's Journal any changes that you make as you build and test your invention.

Patenting An Invention

Look on the bottom of some objects around your house. You might have noticed a patent number or a patent pending number. A patent is a document issued by the Patent and Trademark Office for the federal government ( It protects your idea and gives you, the inventor, rights to the invention for 17 years. A patent gives you the right to prevent anyone else from making, using, or selling your invention without your permission. When a patent expires, anyone can produce the product without paying the inventor for it.

Patents are issued for new inventions and improvements on old inventions. To apply for a patent the inventor must have a description of the invention and drawings that show how it works. The inventor must also tell why he or she believes the invention is new and different from inventions that have been patented before. This is why your Inventor's Journal is so important.

An inventor who has received a patent may market and sell the invention or may prefer selling the patent rights to a company. In this case, the company pays a fee to the inventor for the right to produce and sell the invention.

If you are serious about protecting your idea, you may want to talk to a patent attorney. For a fee, an attorney can tell you about patents, copyrights, and trademarks and do a patent search. It takes about two years to get a patent.

Invention Marketing

Congratulations! You have made it to the final step in inventing: selling your product.

There are several steps to take in this process:

You need to set a reasonable price for your invention.

You need to convince someone that they need your invention.

Watch commercials on television and look at advertisements in magazines and newspapers to get ideas.

Design and produce an advertisement for television, radio or print.

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