"It was one of the best times of my life."

Cedric Maxwell, Norview High School InvenTeam student

What is invention?
The word "invention" can often be ambiguous. It is important for students, teachers and mentors to understand the meaning of invention as they begin to brainstorm ideas for invention projects and foray into the inventive process.

The InvenTeam initiative adopts the definition offered by William Middendorf in his book, What Every Engineer Should Know About Inventing. Middendorf states: "Invention… means the process of devising and producing by independent investigation, experimentation, and mental activity something which is useful and which was not previously known or existing. An invention involves such high order of mental activity that the inventor is usually acclaimed even if the invention is not a commercial success. Often inventions are put into use after they become public property."

Westview High School InvenTeam (2007)
Invention is often used interchangeably and hence, incorrectly, with the words "innovation" and "creativity." It should be noted that creativity is the ability to produce novel ideas or things that are unexpected and show a high degree of skill and intelligence. It applies to contribution in any field of human activity.

Furthermore, innovation, which may or may not include invention, is the complex process of introducing novel ideas into use or practice and includes entrepreneurship as an integral part. Innovation is usually considered noteworthy only if it is a commercial success. Thus, society benefits from innovation, not from invention alone, and often there is a significant lapse of time from invention to innovation.

In developing an InvenTeam grant proposal, please keep in mind the meanings of these words to ensure you are submitting an idea for an actual invention or novel idea for a product or process.