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Open Access Telling Cases That Inform an Understanding of Factors Impacting the Development of Inventors From Diverse Backgrounds

The lack of diversity among patent holders in the United States (1-3) is a topic that is being discussed by federal policymakers. Available data suggests that prolific patent holders and leading technology innovators are 88.3% male and nearly 94.3% Asian, Pacific Islander, or White, and half of the diversity that does exist is among those who are foreign born (3). The data shows that there is a need for greater diversity among patent holders. Few studies, however, are available to guide the work of educators creating learning opportunities to help young people from diverse backgrounds learn to invent. Educators must navigate issues that have complex sociocultural and historical dimensions (4), which shape the ideas of those surrounding them regarding who can invent, with whom, under what conditions, and for what purposes. In this paper, we report the results of an ongoing multimethod study of an invention education pro- gram that has worked with teachers and students in Grades 6 through 12 for the past 16 years. Findings stem from an analysis of end-of-year experience surveys and interview transcripts of six students (three young men and three young women) who participated in high school InvenTeamsĀ®. The data were used to investigate three topics: 1) ways high school students who have participated on an InvenTeam conceptualize the term "failure" and what it means to "learn from failure," 2) what supported and constrained the work of the three young women during their InvenTeams experience and the implications for policy makers concerned about the gender gap in patenting, and 3) ways the young men and young women took up (or didn't take up) the identity of "inventor" after working on a team that developed a working prototype of an invention during the previous school year.


Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: March 1, 2020

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  • Technology and Innovation, edited and published by the National Academy of Inventors, is a forum for presenting information encompassing the entire field of applied sciences, with a focus on transformative technology and academic innovation. Regular features of T&I include commentaries contributed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and in-depth profiles of Fellows of the National Academy of Inventors in every issue.

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