Findings from the Lemelson-MIT Invention Index

Findings from the Lemelson-MIT Invention Index. Teachers rank highest, followed by doctors, scientists, military personnel, engineers, and politicians.

If you had to choose, which profession would you say contributes most to society’s well-being? According to the recent Lemelson-MIT Invention Index, an annual survey that gauges kids’ perceptions about invention and innovation, teens rate teachers highest, followed by doctors (see graphic). Less than one-fifth of respondents viewed scientists as having the highest impact on society and only 5 percent chose engineers.

One reason might be because students simply aren’t aware what professionals in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) do and don’t have suitable role models. But the good news is that teens are excited to learn. Indeed, 77 percent were interested in pursuing a STEM career, and 85 percent wish they knew more about STEM in order to create or invent something. The most effective way to engage them is through hands-on activities with enthusiastic mentors and teachers. Passion seems to be essential. More than half of respondents (55 percent) would be more interested in STEM simply by having teachers who enjoy the subjects they teach.

The most inspiring training grounds, teens indicated, were field trips to view STEM in action and places outside the classroom where they can build things and conduct experiments (53 percent).

Learn more about the Invention Index’s findings and how you can mentor students in STEM subjects.

The Lemelson-MIT Program's game Brain Drain allows two players to face off or a single player to match wits with the computer.

The Lemelson-MIT Program's game Brain Drain allows two players to face off or a single player to match wits with the computer.

What’s the shortest path from Babbage’s Difference Engine to the cell phone? How about from vulcanized rubber to the World Wide Web? Play the Invention Connection game on the Lemelson-MIT Program’s Web site and choose a succession of related inventions to get from one to the other in as few moves as possible.

Or, try your hand at Which Came First and ponder such choices as neon or fluorescent? The stapler or the paper clip? Dry cleaning or blue jeans? Both of these games are inspired by the program’s book Inventing Modern America: From the Microwave to the Mouse.

Feel like some hardcore trivia? Go head to head with another person or the computer in Brain Drain and answer questions such as What product, invented by Luther Burbank, helped Ireland overcome the potato famine of 1840-1860? or Which inventor revolutionized the aluminum can through the use of the pop-top?

You’ll have to play the games to find the answers.