Alexis Lewis’s Innovation Mission
With a patent to her name and more likely on the way, 15-year-old Alexis Lewis has made it her mission to inspire other kids to also become inventors.
- In the beginning of this video, Alexis Lewis talks about her grandfather and how his own interests and profession influenced her as she was growing up. What do you think about the role that family plays in shaping children’s interests? What family members most influenced your own interests as a kid?
- Lewis explains how her mother would read to the family about world issues covered in the news. For Lewis, it was stories in the news that sparked her first idea for an invention. What are other ways that current events have influenced or motivated people, spurring them into action? Is there a topic in the news currently that you wish more people would respond to or get involved in?
- Lewis talks about a type of sled historically used by Native American Plains Indians that is called a “travois.” Her first invention was to design a new version of this sled that would work with materials available in Africa, where she hoped the sled would be used. If this sled is based off of an existing idea, how is it an invention? What are some other inventions that are also inspired by earlier versions of the same thing?
- Alexis Lewis’s mom talks about how her daughter applied for a U.S. patent for her first invention by entering a competition. Have you ever entered a competition? Why do you think the U.S. would have a competition related to applying for a patent? Why would an institution like the Smithsonian be interested in organizing a competition on innovation? What other types of competitions do you wish big institutions should support and why?
- Lewis describes her second invention as “a process of trial and error.” What do you think she means? Why would having firefighters test prototypes in the field be important? What are some examples of current inventions or products that might be improved if the designers/manufacturers got more input from people who frequently use them?
- When talking about Alexis Lewis’s inventions, one fireman talks about how she “applies common sense and hard thinking” to solving societal problems. What personal qualities do you think are important to problem solving? Are there things that you think the fireman might have added to his description of Alexis Lewis’s talents?
- Does Lewis strike you as a likely “inventor?” What qualities do you think are most important for an inventor to have? Can anyone be an inventor?
- Lewis explains that she thinks it is important for kids to see examples of other kids their own age making inventions and that she hopes other kids will catch the “curiosity bug.” Why would seeing someone their own age be important when trying to inspire other kids? Who do you find inspiring? Do you think curiosity can be contagious?
This video exists as part of a series gathered around the theme of Entrepreneurship. Other videos in this series are listed below.