About the Challenge

The Invent It Challenge is an annual competition that inspires students around the world to unleash their inner inventor! The competition was created 8 years ago by Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center and Cricket Media, with the goal of educating, engaging and empowering kids across the globe to learn and use the invention process to make change in our world. Since then, thousands of kids around the globe have tried their hands at inventing through the Challenge, and many have gone on to patent their ideas!

Every year, students document their use of Smithsonian’s 7 step Spark!Lab Invention Process, to brainstorm new inventions to solve global problems. For the 2019 Dr. InBae Yoon Challenge, participants will focus their minds and talent on generating inventions that enhance and improve the daily lives and activities of older adults.

Often entire classroom of students enter either individually or as teams. Teachers and home school parents love it as their students get to apply their STEM skills in an engaging real-world challenge. The high-quality, free curriculum provided by the Smithsonian and Cricket Media make participating a smooth learning experience for students, educators, and parents alike.

Hear what last year’s winners loved about the 2018 Invent It Challenge!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Who can join the Challenge?

Young inventors aged 5 to 18, either individually or on teams, compete in four age divisions:

● Ages 5–7
● Ages 8–10
● Ages 11–13
● Ages 14–18

What types of entries are accepted?

In addition to presenting an invention idea that enhances and improves the lives and activities of older adults, each entry must show the process by which the invention idea was developed, showcasing the completion of the 7 Key Steps of the Invention Process. Suitable Entry Formats: PowerPoint Deck (either the provided template or entrant’s preferred PowerPoint format) or Video.

Note: Submission uploads must be under 2GB in one of the following allowed file types: ppt, pptx, avi, mov, mp3, mp4, mpg

Why do Teachers and Homeschool Parents love the Invent It Challenge?

Teachers and Parents love the Invent It Challenge because it provides a platform for students to integrate numerous STEM skills with their creativity and apply it to solve real-world challenges. They also love the ready-made resources that make it easy to support students as they create their entries.

Why do Students love the Invent It Challenge?

Students love the Invent It Challenge because it helps them realize they can make a difference in the world and that they have the skills and creativity to make unique contributions to society. Students not only love the amazing prizes such as the trip to Washington D.C., but also the fact that the challenge helps them realize they can do whatever they set their minds to!

How will winners be selected?

A panel of Smithsonian and ePals judges review all entries using the evaluation criteria outlined in the Scoring Guide. While all entries are honored through publication in our online gallery, judges identify our winners by looking for young inventors that excel at explaining the problem, innovating on past ideas, sketching and prototyping their invention, testing and tweaking their idea and explaining how the invention enhances and improves the daily lives and activities of older adults in an innovative way. As a culmination of the Challenge, each year an ‘ePals Choice Award’ winner is chosen for the highest honorary award by popular vote.

What are the rules?

Each Challenge entry must adhere to the complete Official Rules, identifying a real-world problem related to enhancing and improving the daily lives and activities of older adults and demonstrating all seven of Spark!Lab Key Steps of the Invention Process. For the invention submission, Entrant can use either the provided PowerPoint template, Entrant’s preferred PowerPoint format, or video. For the evaluation criteria for judging, see the Scoring Guide.

What are the prizes?

In addition to the amazing Cricket Magazine, Turing Tumble, Unruly Splats, and Bitsbox prizes as well as the Camp Invention® Scholarship, Faber-Castell Art Supplies, Smithsonian Books and Washington D.C. Trip, Winners will also participate in an informational and educational seminar and one on one consultation(s) with U.S. Patent and Trademark Office subject matter experts on the use and importance of protecting their intellectual property through patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets.

What is the timeline?

The Challenge opens on January 17, 2019 (National Inventor’s Day) and closes on April 5, 2019. Winners will be announced on May 5, 2019.

What is the Challenge Community?

The Challenge Community is an online space for students, teachers, and parents to interact with one another and experts from the Lemelson Center.

Who are the Sponsors?

The Challenge is made possible by the generosity of the Yoon family, honoring the legacy of Dr. InBae Yoon. Additional sponsors of the Spark!Lab Dr. InBae Yoon 2019 Invent It Challenge include Bitsbox, Turing Tumble, Unruly Splats, Camp Invention®, Faber-Castell, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Cricket Media, National Invention Convention, and Smithsonian.

What are the steps to submit?

Students must document completion of each of the 7 Key Steps of the Invention Process in a PowerPoint or video and submit their entry anytime between 12:00 AM EST, January 17, 2019 and 11:59 PM EST, April 5, 2019, by following submission instructions, found on the Submit page to submit their entry anytime between 12:00 AM EST January 17, 2019 and 11:59 PM EST on April 5, 2019. 

Who are the judges?

The team of judges is comprised of experts at Cricket Media and the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation.

Who is Cricket Media?

Cricket Media® is a mission-based global education company creating high-quality print and multi-media products for children, families, and teachers. Led by its 10 award-winning children’s magazines and research-tested collaborative learning and eMentoring platforms, Cricket Media is committed to creating and supporting innovative learning experiences that help children safely explore and engage with their expanding world.

What is the Smithsonian Lemelson Center?

The Lemelson Center is the Smithsonian’s home for the study of invention and innovation.  Through its historical research, educational initiatives, exhibitions, and public programming the Center advances new perspectives on invention and innovation and fosters interactions between the public and inventors. For more information please visit http://invention.si.edu.

Key Resources

Official Rules
Spark!Lab Key Steps of the Invention Process
Scoring Guide

In Honor of Dr. InBae Yoon

The Challenge honors the legacy of an inspiring inventor. Dr. InBae Yoon (1936-2014) was a Korean American inventor who passionately believed—like we do—that everyone is inventive. His love of inventing sparked his lifelong commitment to drawing, tinkering, and prototyping his ideas, which resulted in over 200 US patents. The Spark!Lab Dr. InBae Yoon Invent It Challenge celebrates his legacy as an inventor and educator and aims to inspire the next generation of innovators!

Meet the Judges

Laura Woodside
VP, Education Products, Cricket Media

Jeffrey Brodie
Deputy Director of the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation

Megan Fraedrich
Marketing Coordinator, Cricket Media

Tim Pula
Interpretive Exhibits Inventor

Charles Tibedo
Education Consultant, Cricket Media

Nyssa Buning
Spark!Lab National Network Coordinator

Laura Eggleston
Education Consultant, Cricket Media

Emma Grahn
Museum Program Specialist

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