I was contacted not to long ago by the Provato marketing firm that an author was interested in being interviewed for the Raising Smart Girls blog. I was both honored and very, very pleased when I found out about what Susan Casey published.
Susan Casey is the author of Kids Inventing! A Handbook for Young Inventors and Women Invent! Two Centuries of Discoveries That Have Shaped Our World. She is also a journalist and her articles and photographs have appeared in Family Circle, Americana, USAir, Women’s Sports, Soap Opera Digest, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner, Inventors Digest, Electrical Contractor and many other publications. When she was a girl, she loved reading and writing and through the efforts of a teacher, her first magazine article was published when she was in the seventh grade. After graduating with a degree in history from Santa Clara University, she spent a summer doing volunteer work in a small village in rural Mexico. It was a trip to Africa that prompted her writing career.*
Today I am interviewing Ms. Casey about her book Kids Inventing! A Handbook for Young Inventors.
Raising Smart Girls (RSG): What made you decide to write a handbook on how kids could make their own inventions?
Susan Casey (SC): When I was talking to school groups about the inventors featured in Women Invent!, the kids were especially interested in the girl inventors I included in the book. For example, Wendy Johnecheck invented a new type of jumprope and Becky Schroeder invented a way to write in the dark. Once I saw how interested the kids were in their stories, I decided to write about both girl and boy inventors. As I started writing
I realized that I needed to include information about the inventing process as well. That resulted in Kids Inventing! A Handbook for Young Inventors.
RSG: Your book is wonderfully detailed and informational, what age group of children did you have in mind when you wrote the book?
SC: The book is aimed at students in grades 4-8 but it is a good reference for anyone interested in invention. Many adults have told me they used it to find out about the invention process. And many teachers have told me they use it to teach inventing to their students.
RSG: Could you give my readers give a brief overview of the invention process?
SC: Inventions start with an idea. Inventors make notes and sketches of their invention ideas in a journal or log then use the notes to try to make a model of their invention. Naming the invention is another step as is doing a survey to find out if people are interested in the idea and what they would pay for it. Doing a patent search to see if someone else has already invented the idea is important and interesting. Making a video
commercial about an invention can be fun. Approaching a company about licensing the invention can be interesting as can entering a contest or competition.
On my website I have included a number of activity sheets that can help any young inventor with the invention process. Kids can use the activities to understand the various steps of inventing.
A LIST OF THE ACTIVITY SHEETS ON THE LINK ABOVE:
Young Inventors Worksheet
Be an Inventor, Inventing is Fun!
Getting an Idea
Thinking of Ideas For Inventions!
Improve Something You Use!
Thinking of Ideas for Inventions!
Combine Things to Make Something New!
Is Your Idea an Invention?
Naming Your Invention
All About Patents (Use this activity sheet to discover the patents of Abe
Lincoln and Michael Jackson!)
Survey Others About Your Invention
Manufacturing and Selling Your Invention
Create an Ad Campaign and Present Your Invention
Do a Commercial About Your Invention
RSG: How did you research the process from selecting an idea through
manufacturing and selling an invention?
SC: I read a lot of books, visited the patent depository at the Los Angeles Public Library, talked to a lot of experts and was able to have the experts review my work before it was published.
RSG: What advice would you give a parent to help them encourage and
support a child’s creativity and imagination which are important aspects
Kids are natural inventors since they don’t know what can’t be done. Let kids have fun thinking of inventions and don’t discourage any of their ideas. Even if their ideas are wild, there might be a germ of a good idea within the wild idea. To help them focus on concrete ideas, let them start in the kitchen. It is a great place for them to start thinking of ideas for inventions. Ask them how they would improve different kitchen tools. Or ask them to think of 20 items in the house and then to try to combine some of those things to make something new. For example, a ladder with wheels or a key with a light. Or ask them to try to improve a common item, i.e. the toothbrush. All those activities can be creative and fun.
RSG: Since these are ideas coming from children, how difficult is it for them to market an idea for manufacturing?
To manufacture an invention, an inventor’s parents have to become involved. That’s of interest to some parents. Since most parents are not inclined to do that, I suggest to students that they enter contests or competitions. It’s something they can do themselves. They are often helped in that process by a parent or teacher but entering a contest is
far less complicated than the process of manufacturing.
RSG: How often do children’s inventions actually reach the manufacturing
and selling stage?
SC: Not very often. However, many kids benefit from entering contests and competitions. They can win from $100 to $5,000 to $10,000 cash prizes or scholarships. Check out the invention contests or competitions listed on the link below from my website:
RSG: Do you personally know of children who have used your book and taken
an idea from the brainstorming stage to a marketed product?
I don’t. However, after interviewing one of the kids for the book, a girl who had
been recognized in the Invent Iowa invention program, I suggested that she
enter a national contest. She did and won a $10,000 scholarship. That
RSG: The Ladybug Game, produced by Zobmondo Entertainment, was a popular game in the RSG household. It was designed by a first grader, and has been sold in stores all over the United States. Do you know of other popular
marketed products designed by children?
SC: Chris Haas invented Hands-On Basketball when he was 9. He’s now in his 20s and his basketball with handprints—that show kids where to put their hands to shoot a basket—sells worldwide. Profits from it have paid for college for Chris, his brother and his sister.
Abbey Fleck came up with the idea of Makin’ Bacon. It’s a tray for making
bacon in a microwave. It’s sold nationwide. Kaitlan Fairweather sold a device to use in practicing Lacrosse—a device that returns the ball the player—to Brine Inc., a nationwide company that sells sports equipment.
(*short biography of Susan Casey provided by Provato Marketing)
Susan, this was an amazing and fun interview. This is the kind of book that would be a fantastic addition to any school or family library. Christmas is just around the corner. I can think of a few parents whose curious kids would benefit from this book and I will definitely share the word. I also think I have an idea for my daughter’s 4th grade merit class teacher’s gift (if she doesn’t already have one).
If you are still interested…I would love love love to host a book giveaway. I think my readers might be very interested as well. Readers, I would love to host a book giveaway, so leaving a comment on my blog if you are interested in participating would be very, very appreciated. Thanks so much!