Discovery Education Monthly STEM Content Highlights – February 2017

February 11th is National Inventors Day!

Thomas Edison was born 170 years ago on February 11th, and he made a enormous impact on life as we know it! Edison is credited with inventing over 1,100 items, however he was only scratching the surface of innovation. Many people, including students, think everything worth inventing has been already invented. As educators we are here to prove that idea a myth! Since 1963, the US Patent Office not only steadily received more applications, but has granted more patents for unique inventions each year!

1963: Applications – 90,982        Patents Granted – 48,971

2015: Applications – 629,647      Patents Granted –325,979

More people are using STEM skills to become inventors and innovators daily, why not you or your students?

STEMtistic of the Month:

A 2005 survey of patent grantees showed that 50 percent of inventions come as a result of “serendipitous” processes – in other words, happy accidents!  

Is serendipity something that can be prepared for? How do we make sure we are preparing students for an unknown future?

Colin Raney, C-Notes, 2013

There are many different processes for collecting evidence, proving ideas, exploring concepts, and discovery; here are a few:

  • NASA Engineering Design Process: A great video series helping educators and students understand the steps of engineering design through NASA BEST (Beginning Engineering, Science and Technology).
  • Using the Scientific Method to Solve Mysteries: Arizona State University and NSF partnered together to create “Ask a Biologist”. Dig into how the Scientific Method is used in the real world.
  • Happy Accidents: Sometimes the process is to recognize when to leave the process… Kansas State University recently discovered an extremely simple method for making graphene, by ACCIDENT!

James Lawley, Maximizing Serendipity, NLPtCA Conference 2013

Download the February 2017 STEMtistic Image

STEM Content Connection:

3M & Discovery Education Young Scientist Lab – Innovation Interactives

3M and Discovery Education have joined forces to promote innovation in student thinking. Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Our students are going to be the next generation of innovators the world needs. The 3M Young Scientist Challenge asks students in grades 5-8 to develop new, innovative solutions to solve everyday problems. Even if your students are not in these grades, there is STEMtastic content available for innovators of all ages!

The 2017 3M Young Scientist Challenge (YSC) has opened for entries and is looking for the most innovative thinker in America. Learn about the process here: Application Process – DUE April 19, 2017

Meet the past winners:

2016 – Maanasa Mendu

2015 – Hannah Herbst

2014 – Sahil Doshi

2013 – Peyton Robertson

2012 – Deepika Kurup

2011 – Braeden Benedict

MORE STEM Content Connections:

Discovery Education Virtual Field Trips: Science and Engineering VFT Archive

View archived virtual field trips from innovative companies, locations, and thinkers from across the world! Explore new technologies at the Deere & Company World HQ, learn about innovations in manufacturing at Alcoa plants, or investigate new farming technologies across America’s heartland.

United States Patent and Trademark Office: USPTO Kids and Educators Site

Have an idea for an invention? How do you make sure no one steals your idea? Check out the US Patent and Trademark Office’s site for kids! Explore young inventors, videos about amazing innovations, as well as history and explanations of laws governing patents, trademarks, and intellectual properties. There are also lessons and activities for students at all grade levels.

Fenugreen FreshPaper: Kavita Shukla TEDx Manhattan

When and where do the ideas for innovations and inventions take place? This TEDx talk proves that all ages of people come up with amazing ideas to solve problems in the world. Kavita Shukla developed the idea for FreshPaper in middle school and has created a movement around a simple innovation that could help combat world hunger.

Discovery Education Resources:

Inventors and Innovators Content Collection

Multi-modal K-12 resources, Discovery Education Content Collection

Investigate inventors and their innovations including Thomas Edison (phonograph), the Wright Brothers (airplane), and Hedy Lamarr (radio communications).

Stuff You Missed in History Class Podcast: Five Unlikely Inventors

Audio, Grades 6-8 & 9-12, Discovery Education Streaming Plus

Don’t let your students miss out on things we all missed when learning history! For instance, from Marlon Brando to Harry Houdini, it’s common knowledge that performers are uniquely gifted – but several have also gained reputations as gifted inventors. Tune in to learn more about five of history’s most unlikely inventors.

Innovation in Art: Bacteria Artwork

Video, Grades 6-8 & 9-12, Discovery Education Streaming Plus

Innovation doesn’t just happen in engineering and science, but in all areas of the world. Art has been utilizing the 4C’s to change the way we think about the world. With the growth of technology, new ways of representing thinking have blossomed. Check out this video of Zachary Copher as he illustrates portraits out of bacteria, and invents bacteriography.

STEM Career Challenge:

“You can’t be what you can’t see.”

STEM Career Challenges are developed to engage students in content tied to STEM career pathways often overlooked. Connecting student passions to their individual futures helps capture student interest in learning. STEM Career Challenges have been developed to allow flexibility and customization for each teacher, school, and district based on your own standards and curriculums.

This month, we look to introduce students to being a machinist with the Machinist STEM Career Challenge. Inventors typically make prototypes or a single version of their invention. Who builds / puts together the thousands of versions that are sold at stores? Pose this challenge to your students and have them use critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and problem solving to develop blueprints for an invention needing to be copied and built in mass quantities.

Submit a STEM Career and Challenge important to your own local community for us to share with the Discovery Community! To submit your idea: STEM Career Submission

Extend Student Learning with Discovery Education Resources: 

  • Read about a Maury County, TN General Motors manufacturing plant that employs die makers and machinists: Now use the same process to design and build specific pieces of a car (e.g., steering wheel, seat).
  • Use a molding material, such as clay or playdough, to create a mold for a piece of your car. Test your mold by filling it with water or jello and freezing. Once solid, remove it and assess.


Join the DE STEM Team live on February 8th, 2017 @ 7:30pm (ET) as we highlight STEM Strategies that Work. STEM teacher leaders will share STEM strategies they utilize in their classroom that all educators can replicate to help develop a STEM culture. The DE STEM Team will also be live for “Open Office Hours” to answer questions, share ideas, and continue the conversation around STEM implementation and culture.


Join the DE STEM Team for our monthly STEM Chat! We facilitate rich conversation between our guest host and STEMthusiasts from all over!  How do I participate in a #DESTEMChat? Click here

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