• Cassandra L. Wilkinson

Science of Innovation


The United States Patent and Trademark Office has partnered with the National Science Foundation and NBC Learn to develop a program called Science of Innovation. Science of Innovation is an educational program that encourages students to become inventors and fosters a partnership between inventors and federal agencies, industry, as well as educators.
United States Patent and Trademark Office
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the key source for information regarding patents and would be a good place to start when a Science of Innovation program participant has questions about protection for their invention.
Some of the more common questions are:
• Do I need protection for my invention and what is it? • Can I apply for a patent? • What can or cannot be patented? • Is there a limit of time for how long a patent lasts? • What are the fees associated with the patent process?
For more information on the USPTO visit the USPTO Website.
The National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is a federal agency that supports research at American colleges and universities for many fields such as mathematics, computer science, and the social sciences.
The NSF’s goal is to foster inventive research in collaboration with education so that today’s pioneering inventors will become the formative teachers for future scientists and engineers. New and innovative research is funded so that there will be cutting-edge scientific, engineering, and technological advances made by and for future generations. The NSF supports unusual research ideas that have a high risk component along with a possible high pay off in outcome. NSF also supports novel collaborations and various research ideas that may seem like science fiction today but will be part of the norm in the future. As many as 200 of these NSF supported researchers have gone on to pioneer discoveries and win Nobel Prizes for their work.
One of the ways that NSF fosters discovery and learning for the science and engineering frontiers is through the Science of Science & Innovation Policy (SciSIP). Funding from the SciSIP supports research for the advancement of expanded scientific models, analytical tools, data, and metrics used in scientific decision outcomes. The SciSIP program promotes research in the various science fields such as social, behavioral, and economics as well as chemistry, biology, physics, and nanotechnology.
NSF provides funding for research and education through educational grants and cooperative agreements with over 2,000 schools in the United States. Through federal grant money the NSF supports science and engineering students in all levels of education from prekindergarten through the graduate school level and beyond. The NSF will take into consideration a proposal for funding for a definitive amount of financial support for a particular project. All proposals are evaluated by reviewers that are scientists, engineers, and educators who are not employed by NSF. For more on the process of review and to find out about the policies and guidelines please visit the NSF website.
NBC Learn
The Science of Innovation program through NBC Learn consists of a series of videos with accompanying lesson plans for teachers to utilize. The lesson plans were created for middle school and high school students by the National Teachers Association. The videos highlight inventors in various industries. The goal of the program is to encourage not only students but individuals interested in bringing their invention to fruition. The short videos were created to inspire future inventors with the following topics:
• Smart Concrete – Carbon fibers conduct electricity through concrete. The concrete becomes a sensor which helps with any structural damage inspection. This creates automatic structural monitoring in real time that can detect damage not able to be seen by the human eye.
• Self-Driving Cars – Innovators built a car that uses artificial intelligence. The car captures information through data gatherers that is then sent to a central computer. The computer uses the captured information to drive the vehicle safely without a person in the driver’s seat.
• Fuel Cell Efficiency – Innovators created a fuel cell that is one hundred times more efficient than what is currently on the market.
• Electronic Tattoos – A small electronic device attached to the surface of the skin that contains personal healthcare information.
• Biometrics – A program utilizing computer image processing from the human eye to recognize unique traits for identification purposes.
• Biofuels – Scientists are creating biofuels from the fibers that make up the structure of plants such as wood, grass, or even leftover products like corn stalks.
• Anti-Counterfeiting Devices – A strategy for detecting counterfeit goods came to fruition by creating an embedded microscopic authentication material in a product. Using a biosensor items can be traced to verify product authenticity.
• 3-D Printing – Created by scientists, a three dimensional digital copy of an object is created using a computer. Volume is added to the image using powders and glue.
• What is Innovation? – The video explains the process of Science of Innovation.
• Synthetic Diamonds – The video explains the how scientists have discovered various ways in which a synthetic diamond can be created.
• Bionic Limbs – Personal inspiration has played a part in the innovation process for creating bionic limbs. Bionic limbs are created by material and machines that are engineered to mimic the human body.
To view the videos visit the NBC Learn website.
The partnership between the USPTO, NSF, and NBC Learn promotes the progress of individuals to become inventors through funding, educational resources, and directional support. This creative partnership helps inventors see the culmination of their work come to fruition. The ultimate hope is that the program will improve lives and help to create economic growth.

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