Pat Brackley

The 4th/5th grade Seminar classes in Sheridan, Wyoming used the retractable pole discussed in your TED presentation as inspiration for our own innovations.

Currently about 45 students are identified for the program, which meets for ½ day a week and serves high-ability children in our beautiful community. In Seminar we work on a yearlong interdisciplinary unit. Our goal is to introduce new content and provide more depth and complexity within that content. This year’s theme is change, and a big focus is on innovation. Besides learning about innovators and innovations of the past, we’re innovating, too – coming up with hundreds of new inventions and ideas. Last week we SCAMPERed the retractable pole. As you probably know, SCAMPER is an acronym. So far we have used the first 4 letters (substitute, combine, adapt and minimize/maximize) to come up with new ideas. During our creative thinking sessions, all ideas are accepted. Here are our retractable pole innovations.

I substituted what the pole is made of with:
-wood so that you could make a boat. It would be able to shrink or get larger. JB
-dragonfly wings so that it could fly you around. EH
-gummy bears so I never run out of a snack and can get more by extending it. LO
-a clockwork, so you can now tell time everywhere and it looks cool. TP
-hard plastic. That way I have a hitting stick that fits into my pocket. It would be useful to hit people on the go. WC (a nonviolent student )
-with glass. Then I would put lava lamp stuff in the tube. The result is a retractable lava lamp. PB
-with a weapon. You can carry it in your pocket and pull it out if there’s a dangerous moment. It could save your life. AG

I combined the retractable pole with:
-a gun barrel. Then when you’re shooting, your barrel could adjust to the size of a pistol or the size of a rifle or shotgun. TP-R
-licorice so it would enable me to have a small snack for the day without getting hungry. BB
-a chair. The chair legs can be adjusted to anyone’s height. JP
-trash to make trash small and fill landfills slower. TG
-food to feed the hungry. DH
-hooks so I could hang stuff on it. It could be a large coat hanger or a small earring hanger. PR
-an airplane so if it gets shot, a new plastic piece unrolls over the gap. AP
-a pencil so you can adjust to the size that you need. JC
-a table so you can eat anywhere you go without having to sit on the floor. KC-K
-a spring on the bottom of the pole so you can get around and it fits in your pocket. ML
-a door so people don’t have to duck. WB
-a shrink chamber so when I extend it all my action figures are shown on a button which I push to unshrink them and get them out, then drop it down the hole and it goes into its shrink pocket. IH
-a fan. You could use it to start fires. Instead of blowing into the fire, it could do that for you. PK
-a candle to have a longer or shorter wick. This will reduce the amount of candles made. AP
-suction cups and shoes with straps to make stable stilts. MB
-monkey bars so you could make a long or short line of monkey bars. SB
-a rubber claw on a wooden pole so in case electrical lines or anything electrical crashes, you can grab them safely without being electrocuted. GG
-a computer so it will be more portable. NB
-a bike so as the child grows, he/she just simply makes it their height (comes with 10 different sized tires). BP

I adapted the pole:
-for a soldier so it’s a retractable rack of ammo. OP
-for a plant to make an artificial stem to make it different heights. CS
-for a baker. You would flatten it, make it produce cake, and have cakes at the fair. TM
-for people in the Arctic so they have an adjustable ice tester. CM
-for a marine biologist. A camera would be on one end and a retractable net on the other. BS
-to have the blade type things that make a helicopter fly on it along with Kevlar straps on it so that, like with a parachute, you can fly! Only gliding/floating will be replaced with controlled flight! BR
-to a window by making mini blinds that would hang down from a window to keep out light and then simply push them up to let light in. CD
-for a magician. I came up with a trick in which the magician pulls a 12 foot pole out of his throat. ID
-for a Samurai so he can pull a sword out of his pocket. KM
-for a deep sea diver, so they can extend it to get air and still breathe. EF

I maximized the pole so you can:
-make different heads like a toothbrush or a shovel head and stick it on the end of the pole. GP
-make a slide. When you are finished having fun with this giant slide, you can just pack it up and store it in the attic. OT
-easily set up medical tents after a natural disaster. AD

I minimized the retractable pole:
-to help medicine travel easily into your body. You stick the tube into your mouth, but not too far back. Then you breath in and the air flow pulls the medicine back down in the esophagus where you swallow the rest. No more tasting the bad medicine. JM
-for a broom stick. This allows a “little person” to use it and be the right size and a “big person” to use it after the “little person.” The broom stick adjusts. AB
-and flavored it and changed it so it holds pills and other medicine while you are swallowing it. It retracts to the size of the pill you’re taking. SO
-to make earrings. This way you can choose how long or short you want your earrings. This will make it so that you don’t spend a lot of money on different sizes. AB
-so it can be a mini cane. The cane can be used for rodents or for doll house play. This would help the rodents so they wouldn’t have to lay down all the time when they get old. ME

In addition to these and other creative thinking ideas, we have been involved in a major research project to see what personality characteristics help innovators. We learned about historical innovators and then formed a hypothesis about the characteristics they possess that have helped them be successful. Our hypothesis is that they are creative, curious, determined, intelligent, and persistent. Now we’ve emailed a survey to innovators of today (one for each of the students) to see if our hypothesis is accurate. We’d like to thank Zach for participating. We are waiting for all surveys to return so we can see if our hypothesis is correct.
It’s wonderful to be part of a school district that values the needs of high-ability children, and encourages curriculum that develops innovative thinking.

(Ms.) Pat Brackley
Elementary Gifted Ed Specialist
Sheridan School Dist #2
Sheridan, Wyoming

$250 Gift certificate to access new materials on Inventables

Inventables is working on democratizing access to new materials for what we affectionately refer to as "Little R&D".  Little R&D in our view includes all the small teams or individuals that work on R&D projects from places like Universities, startups, and small companies.  Typically they have a little bit of funding but getting high volume suppliers and manufacturers to give them technical support or sometimes sell them materials and components can be challenging.  In our experience these teams have lots of passion, energy, and great ideas.  We launched Inventables new innovator's hardware store for Little R&D folks like Tom Rooney and his team who built an autonomous underwater robot.

When we think about improving our store we think what can we do to democratize access.  This meaning what can we do to make it easier for these innovators to get their hands on new materials and components.  Sometimes that means literally making something available for sale that isn't on the market, other times that means building features on our website that let folks in the ask and answer questions.

Recently we ran a contest to reward a "Little R&D" group with a $250 gift certificate to Inventables.  The idea was to take away the barrier of cost.  Contestants submitted their ideas for what they would do with the gift certificate and the world voted.  The world selected Tom Rooney of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory at the University of West England.  He plans to use the money to upgrade their under water robot.

Tom and his team are engineers designing and building an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV).  The robot is entered into a competition where it is expected to perform realistic missions in the underwater environment. The event is designed to encourage young engineers and scientists to think about underwater technology and its future possibilities as well as fostering interest in innovation and technology, and encouraging careers in the field.  Here at Inventables we love supporting groups like this.  We believe they are exploring what's possible and in he process changing the world.  Here's a video of his robot being tested in a swimming pool:

With his gift certificate Tom selected two of each of the following products:

These will be used for system status of each one of the distributed onboard modules.

These are for selecting different modules

These are to aid the divers in recovery and to make their robot look extra cool!

We threw in free shipping and Tom is going to send us a picture when everything is installed.

We're hiring a Product Curator and Sourcer

We’re hiring a Product Curator and Sourcer to curate the selection of products we sell in our innovators hardware store. This person will be responsible for researching and vetting manufacturers, selecting products, setting up our supply chain, and writing product descriptions.
We’re looking for someone with an engineering background (probably mechanical) that is also an excellent writer. You’ve probably built things your whole life and you love engineering. This position requires someone that will transform highly technical product specifications into accessible, fun, yet accurate product pages that inspire our customers to buy them and use them in their projects.  

This person will be responsible for helping our customers solve their R&D problems by optimizing our product selection and by setting the vision for how each product is portrayed on our site. To succeed you will need to:
  • Manage the product mix by proactively curating products into groups that solve the same or similar problems

  • Breaking down quarterly goals into group specific monthly quotas

  • Monitor weekly and monthly performance updating sales and sourcing plans accordingly

  • Work along side our fulfillment team to optimize our inventory

  • Work closely with our photographer to communicate the story each picture needs to tell

    Check out all the details and instructions on how to apply in our careers website.

  • 2 Artists you should know about

    At Inventables we believe that the process of invention and new product development is social and collaborative. Products are rarely if ever created in the back room by a lone inventor. We're working to build tools to make conversations and collaborations easier for "Little R&D". We think about conversations around product development quite a bit and they tend to break down into questions and answers, show and tell, and free form brainstorming. In this post two Inventables customers will be doing some show and tell. If you've bought something and care to share what you've built email us at help @ inventables dot com.

    Justin Kovac is a self styled Eco Artist. Justin Kovac's works are developed from abstract compositions he often renders with the use of computer aided software which includes vectorizing drawings that will then be utilized in conjunction with a CNC machine. The results include stand out pieces such as Sunflower Red #1 2010 made with Sunflower hull fiberboard, chipboard, tree free handmade banana paper, Homasote, domestic poplar, Ultralight MDF type materials, non-toxic glue and non-toxic acrylic paint.

    Currently Kovac is conceptualizing a new work, similar in style, but entirely constructed of Plexiglas and Acrylic type materials, and possibly incorporating LED lights to illuminate and highlight points throughout the piece. He recently bought some Translucent Wood and Color Changing Translucent Panels to experiment with. He is always on the lookout for green materials to incorporate in future pieces - Check out his website, other works and get in touch at justinkovac.com

    A second Inventables customer is British born artist James Hopkins. He has produced a series of thought-provoking, highly imaginative works, including Full Circle, 2000, a 3 dimensional paper sculpture of a human heart, carved from the pages of a London A-Z road maps book.

    The appreciation for this artist's craft grows when you learn that each page is cut by hand with a scalpel from a print out stencil of a cross section of an object. The object is run through a split animation in accordance with the amount of pages needed to match the object's thickness.

    James recently bought a product from Inventables Hardware Store and is experimenting with it for an up coming piece. Stay tuned for a future blog post where we reveal his new work. In the meantime you can find out more at jameshopkinsworks.com.

    The Product Design Show

    I've always wondered why there haven't been more TV shows giving a backstage look at product design. The IDEO Nightline video was influencial in my life and if I remember correctly the most ordered video from Nightline ever. On Jan 7th A web-based program looking at the design of consumer and industrial products launched called The Product Design Show:

    Check out episode #1 "Designing a Better Bicycle," Vince and Allison look at bicycle designs past, present and future.

    We can't wait to see the one on new materials!

    New Materials

    Materials and Products of the week

    Miniature Web Server
    A complete networking solution in a tiny package that enables a product to do things such as deliver personalized content, be remotely diagnosed or upgraded, and regulate speed, power or other states based on information being sent to it.
    You can order these small, self-contained, Ethernet modules through Inventables.

    Other Products you can order through Inventables:
    Circular Polarized Films
    These films cancel out bright ambient light that is reflected off the surfaceof a display.

    Temperature Sensitive Ceramic NEW!
    This ceramic product is unique due to its ability to change color through any kinof change in temperature.

    Wall-mountable Packaging
    These clips let you hang almost any hand-held package, up to 5 lbs, on almost any vertical surface.

    Thanks for supporting Inventables throughout 2010. As we set our sights on the new year we look forward to adding many more exciting and useful products to our Innovator's Hardware Store so that we can inspire everyone, regardless of profession, to explore what's possible!

    Where do you find new materials?

    If you're an industrial designer or mechanical engineer you might be wondering where do you find new materials? Inventables has recently launched an online hardware store for product developers we call the "Innovators Hardware Store".  In the store we sell all sorts of new materials and technologies that can be used for product development.  Typically most of these materials have only been available in high volume orders but we are working with manufacturers to make them available in small quantities for prototyping and short runs.  Here's a look at one of the homepages we're testing.

    Our goal is to democratize access to materials.  This means we are trying to make them easier to understand with plain language descriptions and pictures that tell their story, sold in small enough quantities that a general audience can buy them, and available for purchase online with a credit card.  As we continue to develop the store we will continue to try and make it even easier for folks to get access.

    We're looking for beta testers that have experience using new materials in prototypes or other product development projects to come into our office.  You can find our contact info and read more about us on our website.

    If you have an answer to where do you find new materials, we want to know!

    Friends of MakerBot Operators Discount!

    Our friends over at MakerBot are lowering the barriers to 3D printing.  If you're not familiar with 3D printing it's similar to printing on paper but instead of printing flat 2D objects you print 3 dimensional objects.  Companies like 3D systems, Z-Corporation, and Stratasys have been manufacturing industrial grade machines like this for years.  Typically the least expensive ones cost between $15,000-30,000 while the most expensive cost as much as $250,000.  Here's a list of most of the ones one the market.  A finished part typically is made of plastic and looks like this:

    MakerBot is a startup in New York that has launched an open source RepRap machine.  Their machine is sold unassembled and typically costs $899-$1225 in the MakerBot store.

    For a limited time they are Sharing the love of 3D printing by extending a “friends of Makerbot operators” exclusive time-limited offer to the friends, family, coworkers, students, and fellow creation enthusiasts in your life. 

    Forward this link and tell them to use the coupon code “MAKERBOTFRIEND” so they can pick up a Makerbot Cupcake Ultimate kit for just $697—everything needed to turn their desktop into a thing-generating factory.

    That’s a whopping $202 savings on your friends’ very first MakerBot—they’ll thank you forever, and who knows, maybe they’ll even share their special creations with you!

    This is just a limited time offer good just for friends of MakerBot operators until 11:59 PM January 5th, 2011.

    This is probably the lowest cost 3D printer the world has ever seen!