Grade: Middle
Subject: History

#1372. Inventing the Future

History, level: Middle
Posted Thu Oct 28 10:38:52 PDT 1999 by Ildi Morris (
Co-necting Across the Millennium
Co-nect, Cambridge, MA

Project Overview
Students will explore the impact of technology on the world
by researching current or past scientific advancements,
then developing a new invention or technology for the next
millennium. Students conduct hands-on research on the
usability of current inventions and brainstorm criteria
for a good invention. Each student, or group of students
then researches the development of one invention or
technology during any time period over the last 1,000
years, and writes entries on index cards for a classroom
timeline. As a final product, students create a new
invention or technology for the millennium, and share
their work at a classroom science "Trade Show 2000," and
online in the Inventing the Future project.

Driving Questions: How has technology changed the world?
What technologies or inventions do we need to improve the
world in the next millenium?

Lesson Plans
1. What Makes a Good Invention?
3-4 days

To introduce this activity, read parts from the book,
"101 Unuseless Japanese Inventions: The Art of Chindogu"
by Kenji Kawakami, Dan Papia (Translator), Fearnley-
Whittingstall, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Editor) to
show some examples of useless inventions that have been

Ask students to locate the worst invention they can find
by conducting hands-on research (older grades can locate
more than one). They can look anywhere for these useless
inventions, including catalogs, department stores,
TV shopping networks and ads, or the Internet. Once they
locate their worst invention(s), ask students to write a
brief essay describing what the invention is, what it's
supposed to do, and why they think this invention is not

As a class, have students share their findings. If possible,
they should bring in the invention, or a picture of it.
Compile a list of criteria that makes an invention useless.

Once the negative criteria have been described, have
students brainstorm a list of positive criteria. What
attributes should an invention have that will make it a
good invention? This will be the criteria that will guide
them in creating their new invention as a final product.

2. Choose Your Technology
1-2 days
Divide students in small groups of 3-4. As a class,
brainstorm ideas for any invention or technological
advancement that students are interested in learning more
about. One way to organize the research is for your class
to select one major theme, such as transportation, and
have student groups select one example of transportation
to study, such as the car. Or, students can select any
invention or area of research that interests them.

4. Researching the Technology and Creating a 1,000
Years of Science Timeline
5 days
Once students have selected their invention/technology,
have them begin to research its history. Significant facts
to research include, who was the creator, when was it
created, why was it created, what were the repercussions
of its creation, etc. Students should write distinct
entries of significant events that occurred in the history
of their invention/technology. These entries can be written
on notecards to be displayed in a classroom timeline. Each
entry should include a date, title of the event, and brief
description of its significance. Entries can also include
pictures or drawings.

5. Final Product: Invention for the Future
10 days
After the timeline research is done, student groups begin
to prepare for their final product: a diagram or model of
a new invention or technology they will show at their
classroom's scientific 'Trade Show 2000.' Students begin by
brainstorming a new invention or technology that fits in
with their area of research. The invention should represent
the next step the technology can take in order to develop
in a positive direction. Students can refer to the
guidelines for a good invention they outlined in lesson one.

Once the concept is developed, students begin preparing for
their invention trade show by creating a diagram or model
of their invention or technology, and writing a press
release about it. Students can be assigned individual roles
in their groups: e.g. planner, creator, artist, etc. The
diagram/model should clearly illustrate the features of the
new invention or technology.

Each student should write their own press release for their
product. The release should include background information
on the new product, taken from the preliminary research
that was included in the timeline. It should also describe
the product, and explain why it's a good invention for the
next millennium.

At the 'Trade Show 2000', student groups or individuals
give oral presentations to the class on the model or
diagram of their new invention/technology. The presentation
should condense all the group member's ideas from their
individual press releases into a final one. If possible,
either open up the trade show and invite other classrooms
to visit, or hold it in the evening, so parents and other
family members can participate.

An online version of this project with an interactive
timeline is available at the url below.