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We Need More Invention

May 12, 2007

Filed under: additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,education,event,future — Terry Wohlers @ 06:54

“It’s been said that inventiveness is the source of American wealth,” explained Leland Teschler in his March 8, 2007 column in Machine Design magazine. He went on to say that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and the National Science Foundation (NSF) concluded that we need more of it.

Ideas have been explored and tried in an effort to “produce” inventors. Teschler believes—and I agree—that some people are born with more natural ability to invent than others. You simply can’t create good inventors.

It is possible, however, to bring out the best in people that have what it takes to invent. History has shown that high-profile prizes can encourage innovation, according to Teschler. He uses the example of Lindbergh’s flight from New York to Paris. It was the $25,000 Orteig Prize that served as the motivation. More recently, Mojave Aerospace Ventures received the $10 million X Prize for launching a private pilot into space.

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) and a group of volunteers are working together to introduce high school students to the tools and technologies that help you explore new ideas, create, and innovate. The fourth annual Bright Minds Mentor Program, held last week, introduced advances in CAD solid modeling, 3D printing, rapid manufacturing, and laser scanning to 50 Detroit-area students at the RAPID 2007 Conference & Exposition. The program has never offered prizes as an incentive to participate, but it supports NAS, NAE, and NSF’s belief that creating interest in invention starts at the elementary and secondary school levels.

NAS, NAE, and NSF also believe that more scholarships for science and math majors are needed. The Dimension 3D Printing Group, a business unit of Stratasys, recently announced the results of its third annual “Extreme Redesign: The Ultimate 3D Printing Challenge,” a design and 3D printing contest for high school and college students. More than 1,200 designs were entered in the competition. Two first place winners received $2,500 scholarships and four finalists received $1,000 scholarships.

Inventors cannot be created, but there are ways to motivate the naturally gifted to become productive inventors. I truly believe that programs, such as Bright Minds and Extreme Design, are helping. Kudos to SME and Stratasys for serving as the spark that hopefully ignites many fuses among our youth.


  1. Agreed! Competitions are a great way to bring people out and share.

    The problem with these however is that they are a ‘short fix’ only – what happens after the competition is over? I guess a few (the winners and perhaps some others) will continue their inventive ways?

    But how do you encourage creativity beyond the one off cash prize?

    Perhaps a web platform that runs 24/7/365 showing the best inventions as decided by the web community? A platform that enables ‘click to make almost anything’. Imagine moving the power to make out of the hands of a few and into the hands of all – imagine the sustained explosion of inventiveness and creativity – imagine all of the things that will be invented that have been hiding in people’s heads becuase they have no easy to use tools to express themsevles.

    This is how humanity will accelerate faster than ever before.


    Comment by Dogic — May 16, 2007 @ 06:07

  2. I completely agree – I’m sure you’ve viewed Neil Gershenfeld’s (MIT Professor and Director for their Center for Bits and Atoms) exceptional speech on The Beckoning Promise of Personal Fabrication – (if not, do, very interesting!) – and the exciting thing is that there are companies that have taken all of these ideas on board and are providing us the platforms to be able to create and produce whatever we want, ie: producing for one! This future is being built by innovative firms like and (who provide the desktop manufacturing hardware you need) and (who I proudly work for) who provide the personal manufacturing platform you need to buy, sell and share your product designs, and to make them for real with the click of your mouse. Thereby providing a great platform for this sustainable explosion of inventiveness, creativity and avaialbility to all! It’s so incredibly exciting, and mindblowing all at the same time.

    Comment by nicwa — July 1, 2007 @ 18:46