Learning about inventors can inspire children

As a guide and shaper of your child’s future, you may find yourself loving this quote by Jomo Kenyatta: “Our children may learn about the heroes of the past. Our task is to make ourselves the architects of the future.”

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If there is one thing inventors can teach our children, it’s the fact that everything we have built, invented and developed has a predecessor. Some inventions and developments are offshoots of someone else’s inventions and developments. But if you go back to the beginning, studying the designs of nature itself has often led to invention. Here are three innovators your children might enjoy learning about.

Ben Franklin: This Founding Father had a long and rich career: printer, creator of the public library and the fire department as well as a diplomat. But he was pretty keen on science, too, as his mind fixated on the world around him, exploring answers. He studied ants, weather patterns and even heat transfer, which lead to a new stove design. In fact, we still use the language he used to describe electricity, such as positive and negative. Yes, science is much more broad and complex today. But walking through Franklin’s world can make scientific concepts more real and inspire anyone to be curious, observant and find new solutions.

The Wright brothers: After many tried and failed to design a machine that could fly, these bicycle shop-owning brothers decided to take on the challenge. Inspired by the shape and function of bird wings, they attempted to pilot several gliders starting in 1896 before they designed one that stayed aloft in 1902. A year later, they commissioned their shop’s bicycle mechanic to come up with a lightweight engine and the flying machine was born. When discussing their story with your kids, work backwards. Their invention made them world-famous, but before that, they dedicated years of their lives toiling in obscurity.

boy-smilling-legoGrace Hopper: This math professor probably didn’t realize it at the time, but her work moved us forward in technology. She is one of the innovators featured in this beautifully illustrated book, Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World. She joined the U.S. Navy at the age of 37, wanting to support the World War II effort, and they put her to work on the first computer at Harvard University. What did she know about computers? “Nothing; it was the first one,” she said. The computing machine was 51 feet long, 8 feet high and 8 feet deep. But as she said in a 1980s interview, you now could fit all the information in that computer into a tiny corner of a chip. One day, her superior asked her to write a book, a manual for the computer. It later became the basis of a computer language called COBAL. Though it is now becoming obsolete, it was in wide use for decades and transformed the workplace.

Pick up one of the many biography books about innovators that advanced our knowledge of STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math), and start learning with your kids. Of course, building with LEGO Bricks at a Bricks 4 Kidz workshop can give them the tools and inspiration to create.

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