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An Inventive Class

Necessity is the mother of invention and at Keuka College it seems a good grade may be the father.

In her Integrative Studies II (INS 301) class, Assistant Professor of Education Cindy Shepardson focuses on “the application of the creative process.” The course culminates in an Inventor’s Fair, where students display their inventions.

“I ask them, ‘What bothers you?’” said Shepardson. “They generate ideas for products that would solve their problems and then select the best one for which to design a prototype.

“The prototype includes a diagram of the invention and all of its parts, a description of how it works, and an explanation of how the student came up with the idea,” added Shepardson.

The students present their prototype at the Inventor’s Fair, held at the end of the semester, and they vote on each other’s designs.

“They rate the invention according to the originality of the idea—how clever it is, whether it’s something new that we haven’t seen before—its usefulness (how well it solves the problem), how well it is explained, and how clear and attractive the drawing,” said Shepardson.

Last semester, Joelle Soules’ Easy Clean invention (distributing antiseptic cleaner on bathroom handles) took first place. The second place prize went to Amy Hickey for her washer/dryer combination, the Washyer. Corey Walton took home third place for a cell phone charger that is powered by energy made by walking. Alyssa Gumtow’s Push-up Pringles design, which pushes up potato chips from the bottom of the can to the top, earned honorable mention.

The Inventor’s Fair is something Shepardson, whose passion has been to get teachers to use creativity in the classroom, used to do with the middle school students she taught. With them, she invited community members to attend the fair and judge the prototypes. This is something she is considering doing with her Keuka students in the future.

“My goal is for everyone to leave with the ability to apply the creative process to their own areas and realize that they, too, are creative,” said Shepardson, who added that there is “nothing stopping” her students from patenting their inventions.

The course is interdisciplinary and last semester Shepardson had students running a gamut of majors, including social work, education, criminology/criminal justice, American Sign Language, political science/history, management, and organizational communication. Shepardson is offering the course for the fourth time this semester.

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