Subject-Specific Research
Technology and Engineering
Design, Invention, Innovation


Critical Reading | Examples | Methodology | Student Resources | Collaboration | Glossary | Teacher Resources

You have completed a review of patent and non-patent literature and developed a research proposal for a new technology invention or innovation. In this step of the research process, you will plan, research, create, evaluate, and refine your proposed invention by engaging in the following activities:

  • First, read the description below for background knowledge about technology, invention, and design
  • Read critically to compare the related concepts of invention and innovation.
  • Check out some examples of inventions by high school students like yourself, younger students, and college students to inspire you and jump-start your thinking.
  • Follow the methodology of the invention/engineering design process to
  • Consult a variety of student resources and glossaries as needed, and engage in collaboration to gain information and insight throughout the invention process.

Technology is a a term used very broadly to mean any product or process developed by humans to solve a problem or meet a need. Technology affects the ability of humans to control and adapt to their environment, and it impacts human society in a variety of ways. In addition to complex machines and "high-tech" tools like the automobile and the latest smart phone "app", the simplest tools and devices, like a lever to move something or a kitchen gadget, are also considered technologies. Technology is closely associated with invention and innovation, the transformation of ideas for solving problems or meeting needs into useful new products or processes. Inventions can come from a moment of ingeniousness, as a solution to a specific problem, or as a development from years of research. Inventing requires creative thinking, investigation, and experimentation as part of the design process, a series of steps that help people to think creatively about a problem and produce a successful result. Inventors and engineers use a similar design process, although the field of engineering favors a collaborative team approach to problem-solving and design, while inventors often work alone. Many of the world's technology inventions were designed by engineers.

Depending on the nature of the invention proposal, the inventor may need to engage in several different types of research:

  • Historical Research - Used to trace the history and development of previous or related technologies, including the literature review and patent search which you have already completed.
  • Background Research - Descriptive research used to develop your knowledge of scientific or technical processes or materials related to your technology invention, and to determine the criteria and procedures for applying for a patent.
  • Experimental Research - Quantitative research used to determine and document whether the invention works as intended, and as claimed in the patent application.
  • Market Research - Quantitative and qualitative research used to determine if there is a market for an invention, and to identify a target market and its demographics.
Read Critically

Back to TopCritical Reading: Invention vs. Innovation

Understanding the distinction between invention and innovation will help you to plan the steps in your invention process. The terms invention and innovation are often used interchangeably, and have evolved along with technology. Traditionally, invention has been considered the process of designing and creating something useful that never existed before, and innovation the process of changing or improving upon an already existing invention. For example, the phonograph was the first machine ever to record and play back sounds when it was invented in 1877 by Thomas Edison; using these definitions, the 8-track tape player, cassette tape player, CD player, Walkman, and iPod were all innovations on the phonograph. Both new and improved technologies are covered under the United States Patent and Trademark Office's official definition of an invention as "any art or process (way of doing or making things), machine, manufacture, design, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof . . . which is or may be patentable under the patent laws of the United States."

Read the articles below to explore the concepts of invention and innovation and consider some examples. Use your learning to create a Venn diagram which illustrates the relationship between these two concepts. This interactive Venn diagram can be embedded on your wiki.

Reflection Journal Entry: What is your vision for your proposed invention?
Will this be an invention or an innovation?




Back to TopCheck out some examples of inventions or engineering design projects by high school students like yourself, younger students, and college students. Examine several examples to answer as many of these questions as possible and record notes on this Examples of Student Inventors organizer. This activity will help to inspire you and jump-start your thinking as you begin your own invention process.

  1. What is the inventor's name, age, and invention?
  2. What inspired the inventor's idea and design?
  3. What steps were part of the inventor's process?
  4. What kinds of research did the inventor need to do?
  5. What problem is being addressed by the invention?
  6. How will this invention impact people or the world?
  7. What do you have in common with this inventor?
  8. How is this invention similar to or different from your own proposed invention?

Research Methodology for Technology & Engineering Design, Invention, & Innovation: Back to Top

Using an Invention/Engineering Design Process
Problem-Solving and Research
Describing, Drawing and Building
Testing, Evaluating & Refining
Patent Application

Student Resources

Back to TopSci-tech and Inventors' Resources:

Associations, Organizations, and Blogs
Audio and Video Media
Competitions, Contests, and Conventions
Databases, Digital Libraries, and Directories
Digital Tools
Inventors/Engineers and their Inventions
Journals, Magazines, and News Sources
United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Resources


Back to Top"Ask an Expert":
Read the article Ask an Expert sites about how to select an expert. Use these resources to ask questions that arise during your invention/engineering design process.

Virtual Reference Services :


Back to Top
Glossary of Invention Terms
Principals of Engineering Glossary
Product Design and Development Knowledge Base - Glossary of design, engineering and manufacturing
USPTO Glossary - Terms used on the United States Patent and Trademark Office web site.
Understanding Patentese: A Patent Glossary

Teacher Resources

Back to TopUnit Overview for Step 5: Conduct Subject-Specific Research is available in BCPSOne.

Curriculum Resources


Educational Competitions, Programs and Grants

  • Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams - High School Invention Grants
  • FIRST Tech Challenge - High School Robotics Program
  • Siemen's Competition - The Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology recognizes remarkable talent early on, fostering individual growth for high school students who are willing to challenge themselves through science research. Through this competition, students have an opportunity to achieve national recognition for science research projects that they complete in high school. It is administered by The College Board and funded by the Siemens Foundation.