Monday, January 30, 2017

The darnedest things

Weird & Wacky Inventions by Jim Murphy is a gem.

I’m wrapping up January’s design thinking blitz with a focus on the fourth phase – prototyping.

 (If you’re just joining us and wondering what design thinking is please visit the blog DoucetteEd Tech and read the last couple of weeks blogs to learn more. Here's the link to Paula's blog where she's review some resources that fit with the prototyping phase.)

Prototyping is about producing a product that can be tested in the real world to see if it fits with the need that was initially deemed worthy of investigation in the first place with an eye to improving the situation.

 So back to Jim Murphy’s Weird & Wacky Inventions.

One of the things that make us human is the ability to solve problems and in this book, the reader is introduced to a myriad of inventions and the associated problems. These devices were all patented in the United States going all the way back to the early 1800s.
The information is presented as a quiz; there is an illustration of the invention with a wee bit of description about what the device might do or the problem it might solve. After you make a guess you turn the page and learn what is really was for.

For example, here’s one that cracked me up:

The answer is # 2(of course), a sunbather’s toe-ring. This was designed to in 1973 by Russell Greathouse to help with the problem of uneven tanning. His toe-rings looped around the big toes and prevented the legs from splaying outwards thus resulting in the unsightly appearance of uneven tan lines. The flower was purely for aesthetics.  He’d thought of everything.

There are so many more inventions highlighted in the book that are ingenious, ridiculous, and amazing in their own ways.  Having students browse through this will certainly give them a very good sense about idea generation and that in the prototyping phase of design thinking everything is on the table for consideration. Nothing is too crazy. You never know when a bit of one idea meshed with something else will give you an outcome you wouldn’t have come up with in any other way.

The format is very approachable and easily read, great for dipping into and browsing. The illustrations have an old-fashion quality to them which I liked but may not appeal to students. Nevertheless, I’m recommending this for upper elementary, middle grades and struggling readers in high school.

Any guesses?

(Tell me what kid wouldn't be thrilled with a pair of jumping shoes with strong springy steel legs that would allow kids to jump farther? My track and field days would have been soooo different if I'd had these. Designed in 1922 by May and George Southgate.)


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