2006 INVENTION INDEX™
SURVEY: TEENS PREDICT GASOLINE-POWERED
CARS OBSOLETE BY 2015
Lemelson-MIT Invention Index Raises
about Teens' Perceptions of Their Preparedness to
Tackle Future Societal Problems
Cambridge, MA, January 11, 2006 — Gasoline-powered
automobiles, compact discs and desktop computers are headed toward
the technology scrap heap, according to a recent survey of American
The 2006 Lemelson-MIT Invention Index, which gauges Americans'
attitudes toward invention and innovation, found that a third of
teens (33 percent) predict the demise of gasoline-powered cars by
the year 2015. One in four teens (26 percent) expects compact discs
to be obsolete within the next decade, and roughly another one in
five (22 percent) predicts desktop computers will be a thing of
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Teens are also optimistic that new inventions and innovations can
solve important global issues, such as clean water (91 percent),
world hunger (89 percent), disease eradication (88 percent), pollution
reduction (84 percent) and energy conservation (82 percent).
"Perhaps more than any preceding generation, today's young people
are completely comfortable with rapid technological change," Lemelson-MIT
Program Director Merton Flemings said. "The rate of innovation,
as reflected in U.S. patent applications, has more than doubled
during their lifetime."
"Teens' belief that science and technology may hold the answers
to our biggest societal challenges is encouraging," Flemings added,
"but it also begs the question: Is this generation properly equipped
and motivated to invent solutions to these mind-boggling challenges?"
The Lemelson-MIT Invention Index found that teens believe they
have developed some of the critical skills that will be needed to
address these problems. More than three out of four teens (77 percent)
believe they have learned problem-solving skills well while in school.
They also feel prepared to work in teams (72 percent), think creatively
(71 percent) and lead others (61 percent). However, they fall short
when it comes to budgeting money. Only 32 percent of teens said
they feel they learned that skill well while in school.
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Other studies suggest, however, that teens in high school may
have a limited frame of reference to assess how well they are truly
prepared. For example, a February 2005 report by Achieve, Inc. found
that 55 percent of college instructors were dissatisfied with their
students' abilities to apply what they learn to problem solving.
And while teens are optimistic that societal problems can be solved
through invention and innovation, the Lemelson-MIT Invention Index
raises questions about whether teens are interested in personally
solving these problems.
When asked to select the career field in which they are most interested,
arts and medicine were teens' top choices (17 percent each). Teen
girls were significantly more likely to be interested in medicine
or health care careers than teen boys (25 percent vs. 9 percent).
Engineering was the third most-attractive career choice (14 percent
of all respondents), but it was significantly more popular with
teen boys than girls (24 percent vs. 4 percent). Only 9 percent
of respondents chose science and only 8 percent chose business as
their top career choices.
"The relative lack of interest in science and technology-oriented
fields is alarming," Flemings said. "This year's Invention Index
found that nearly half of teens view invention as a way to contribute
to society and be creative. Yet we continue to fall short, particularly
with respect to teenage girls, when it comes to presenting these
fields as viable and attainable career options. We need to do more
to make science and technology more attractive to today's youth."
So what is attractive to today's youth? The Lemelson-MIT Invention
Index asked teens to choose a low-tech object they wish they had
invented and to say why. The pencil was cited by 38 percent of respondents.
More than half of those who chose the pencil (52 percent) did so
because they felt it was a contribution to society. Another 45 percent
of teens said it was a creative idea.
"It appears that teens respond best to creative inventions, and
not just those that merely make money or garner fame," said Flemings.
"Only by encouraging students to combine strong science skills,
problem-solving abilities, and creative thinking, will we be able
to develop the next generation of inventors.
About the Lemelson-MIT Program
The Lemelson-MIT Program provides the resources and inspiration
to make invention and innovation more accessible to today’s
youth. It accomplishes this mission through outreach activities
and annual awards, including the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize, the
largest single award in the United States for invention.
Jerome H. Lemelson, one of the world’s most prolific inventors,
and his wife Dorothy founded the Lemelson-MIT Program at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology in 1994. It is funded by The Lemelson Foundation,
a private philanthropy committed to honoring the contributions of
inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs and to inspiring ingenuity
in others. More information is online at http://web.mit.edu/invent.
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