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techdirections January 2014 : Page 17

Inventor’s Visit Sparks Student Imagination Image licensed by Ingram Publishing By Susan Bermeo and Harry Roman sbartol@montclair.k12.nj.us; harry661@verizon.net I T started about two months before his actual appearance with enthusiastic students, when inventor Harry Roman was in-vited to visit the Hillside School in Montclair, NJ, by Susan Bermeo, a science specialist there. She was aware of Harry’s work through email communications with him and a speech he gave at a Montclair Soci-ety of Engineers meeting. Together, we planned Harry’s visit to address about 100 students in grades 3-5 dur-ing the school day and their parents at an evening science/invention fair. The experience was a great success and we hope it will inspire other educators to invite an engineer or technologist to visit their classes. well prepared for Harry’s visit and enthusiastic about the subject of invention. Harry lectured to two spe-cial assemblies of predominantly 4th-and 5th-grade students who already had a good grounding in science and math. In explaining how the invention process worked, Harry placed in-vention in perspective as a natural human process, emphasizing that all humans invent to solve problems, and even though not every invented thing gets patented, it is nonethe-less an invention. Invention is part of the problem-solving process. It’s what people do when the solution to a problem requires something very new and not yet available. All this was tied back to a local hero, Thomas Edison, and his nearby labs in West Orange, NJ, which some of the students had already visited with their parents. “Invention,” Harry said, “is very similar to what engi-neers do in their daily work.” Harry At the School Invention day at Hillside was a fun and inspiring day—for both the students and the visiting inventor. Probably one of the most joyous, unscripted parts of the day occurred when the students welcomed Harry upon his arrival at the school. “Are you the inventor?” they asked. When he confirmed, the students imme-diately asked for his autograph and asked him many questions about what he had invented. “How awe-some!” they said, as he mentioned some of his accomplishments. This was just the beginning of their excitement. The students were Susan Bermeo is a science special-ist at Hillside School, Montclair, NJ. Harry Roman is a retired engineer, inventor, and author. A student sets up his invention display in the gym. A young inventor explains her idea. www.techdirections.com ENGINEERING 17

Inventor’s Visit Sparks Student Imagination

Susan Bermeo,Harry Roman

<br /> IT started about two months before his actual appearance with enthusiastic students, when inventor Harry Roman was invited to visit the Hillside School in Montclair, NJ, by Susan Bermeo, a science specialist there. She was aware of Harry’s work through email communications with him and a speech he gave at a Montclair Society of Engineers meeting. Together, we planned Harry’s visit to address about 100 students in grades 3-5 during the school day and their parents at an evening science/invention fair. The experience was a great success and we hope it will inspire other educators to invite an engineer or technologist to visit their classes.<br /> <br /> At the School<br /> Invention day at Hillside was a fun and inspiring day—for both the students and the visiting inventor. Probably one of the most joyous, unscripted parts of the day occurred when the students welcomed Harry upon his arrival at the school. “Are you the inventor?” they asked. When he confirmed, the students immediately asked for his autograph and asked him many questions about what he had invented. “How awesome!” they said, as he mentioned some of his accomplishments.<br /> <br /> This was just the beginning of their excitement. The students were well prepared for Harry’s visit and enthusiastic about the subject of invention. Harry lectured to two special assemblies of predominantly 4thand 5th-grade students who already had a good grounding in science and math.<br /> <br /> In explaining how the invention process worked, Harry placed invention in perspective as a natural human process, emphasizing that all humans invent to solve problems, and even though not every invented thing gets patented, it is nonetheless an invention. Invention is part of the problem-solving process. It’s what people do when the solution to a problem requires something very new and not yet available.<br /> <br /> All this was tied back to a local hero, Thomas Edison, and his nearby labs in West Orange, NJ, which some of the students had already visited with their parents. “Invention,” Harry said, “is very similar to what engineers do in their daily work.” Harry also emphasized that invention is a risky business, where failure is commonplace. He quoted Edison’s classic comment about failure: “Fail your way to success.”<br /> <br /> Students quickly grasped the importance of invention as part of the way an economy grows. Patents result in new things, which are made and sold, which creates jobs and revenue for companies and communities. Students also appreciated that inventors must be careful that their new products do not harm society or the environment, and are safe to use.<br /> <br /> Invention requires that inventors act responsibly and solve problems in a sound and safe manner. Some of the questions asked by students centered on:<br /> <br /> -What is a patent?<br /> -What makes inventors obtain patents?<br /> -How long are patents good for?<br /> -Can you sell patents?<br /> -What can be patented?<br /> -What were your toughest problems to solve?<br /> <br /> Harry came prepared with some examples of things he had invented for the students to hold and examine. Such “props” are incredibly valuable for letting students see that patents have real-world grounding and are not just theoretical or abstract things.<br /> <br /> As he discussed some of the devices he had invented, Harry showed the students a PowerPoint presentation that he had prepared. He discussed the kinds of concerns he had to deal with when designing the five examples that he featured. He also covered the reasons for pursuing the inventions in the first place and the value the inventions had when they were implemented. The presentation inspired many more questions and started discussions among groups of students. It was rapid-fire give and take!<br /> <br /> Science/Invention Fair<br /> In the evening, Harry met more students and their parents. It was great to hear parents talk about how much their children were interested in science and technology. Many stopped by Harry’s table with their children and both parents and students asked more questions. Many parents wanted to know how to keep their children engaged and constantly learning new things.<br /> <br /> Several students brought along some ideas they had sketched out, so clearly their interest in invention had some depth to it. The students had been developing ideas on their own, probably before Harry came to the school. Some parents wondered if their students’ ideas might lead to future patents. It was great to see that creativity is alive and well in today’s students—and that school and parents together are supporting it.<br /> <br /> Plans for the Future<br /> We are now planning some additional follow-up work for both teachers and students at Hillside, possibly involving seeking a grant to conduct a formal invention contest. Teachers will receive some in-service development from us that would prepare them for implementing the contest and developing classroom materials and lesson plans.<br /> <br /> Susan Bermeo is a science specialist at Hillside School, Montclair, NJ. Harry Roman is a retired engineer, inventor, and author.

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