Since the very first Young Inventors’ Showcase in 1987, several winners and participants have gone on to patent, manufacture and market their inventions – some making enough money to help pay for their college education. You are never too young to invent!

Invention has and continues to play a pivotal role in human culture and development. Since the caveman sharpened a stick with a rock to improve hunting, we have been inventing to make life easier. Inventions and the invention process are vital to our lives today. From the wheel to the rocket, from the hammer to the cordless power drill, and from the telegraph to the internet, each invention leaves an indelible mark on our society, economy and history.

The United States has prided itself on being a global hub for invention and innovation throughout the nation’s history. On July 31, 1790, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) awarded its first patent to Samuel Hopkins for an improvement “in the making of Pot ash and Pearl ash by a new Apparatus and Process.” Since President George Washington signed this patent, the USPTO has granted more than 7 million patents, more than 5 million of which were issued to American inventors.

Children’s natural curiosity and desire to experiment has enabled them to play a critical role in the history of inventing. Children have directly invented or helped to invent snack foods, toys, games, clothes, furniture, school supplies, and technology. There are countless examples of young inventors who made an impact on their world with their inventions. For example:

  • 1873 - Chester Greenwood at the age of 14 decided he needed something to protect his ears from the cold. He and his grandmother sewed together the very first set of earmuffs.
  • 1921 - A fourteen year-old Philo Farnsworth came up with the key idea that would lead to his inventing the television while working on his father’s Idaho farm.
  • 1935 - George Nissen at the age of 16 got a pile of stuff from a local junkyard and, in his parents' garage, built a jumping device that he took to a camp where he and some friends worked. The Trampoline was an instant hit!
  • 1958 - Robert Heft redesigned the American flag for a class project. His teacher initially gave him a B-, but told him that he could get a better grade if he could get Congress to adopt his flag. His flag was adopted by Presidential Proclamation and is the flag we use today.
  • 1987 — In kindergarten, Houstonian Jeanie Low invented a stepstool that children could use to reach the sink that would fold up and be held magnetically in place, so it wasn’t in the way of parents.
  • 1997 - At the age of 13, Kavita Shukla invented a lab safety cap for containers holding hazardous chemicals after watching her mom forget to put the gas cap back onto the car.
  • 2005 - At the age of 10, Taylor Hernandez invented "Magic Sponge Blocks," large building blocks made from sponge that can safely stack high without worry that they could fall and hurt a child.

As Thomas Edison said, "All you need to invent is imagination, and a pile of junk!" Good Luck! We can’t wait to see what you’ve invented!

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in the Young Inventors’ Showcase!

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