Do you like to tinker? Kids invent cool things all the time - our guest invented a product when he was only twelve years old! Was he afraid of failing? Nope. Has he failed? - Multiple times! In this episode of the Lingokids Growin’ Up podcast for kids, Emilly Calandrelli meets a young Canadian engineer and inventor, Alex Deans, who shares how kids can become inventors.
Discover fun activities and songs that can help teach your child all about collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and communication in the Lingokids app! 💙
Speaker: When I grow up, I want to be an inventor.
Speaker: What does being an inventor mean to you?
Speaker: Making cool gadgets.
Speaker: Changing the world.
Speaker: Are you ready to make inventing your superpower?
Speaker: Do you like to tinker? Today we're going to meet a real inventor, actually, he's an engineer, alpine skier, artist, and public speaker who happens to love solving problems. That's what inventing is all about. Today we're attending a maker camp for kids, A DIY or do-it-yourself Wonderland.
Speaker: Growing up, growing up.
Speaker: At Maker Camp, kids are using all tools and materials to bring their ideas to life. The air is filled with excitement. There's a magic to inventing. These kids are experiencing the joy of curiosity, discovery, and failure.
Speaker: Joy of failing? Nobody wants to fail.
Speaker: We need to hack that fact, because failing is essential to inventing. Did you know Thomas Edison failed 1,000 times before he successfully created his first light bulb?
Speaker: Really? I probably would have given up.
Speaker: Failure is important and not just for inventing. Remember Principal Alexis Soden, who changed the reputation of a school.
Speaker: TV star Chef Zimmer, who we met at the International Food Festival.
Speaker: Exactly. They use mistakes and disappointments as lessons on how to improve. Let's check out a couple of projects at this Maker Camp.
Speaker: Hey, there's a section called Eco Innovations. Let's see what kids are coming up with to save the planet.
Speaker: Whoa, check this out. A bicycle in the back, and a grass cutter on the front so you can exercise and cut the lawn without using fossil fuel.
Speaker: That's just two things stuck together. Is that an invention?
Speaker: Sure. As long as nobody else thought of it, it's solving a specific problem.
Speaker: Let's see what else there is.
Speaker: I wonder what those kids are doing over there.
Speaker: They're collaborating, working together. Based on their drawing, it appears that they are working on a machine that makes ice cream into pre-made scoops.
Speaker: That's so awesome. Does an inventor have to be an artist?
Speaker: Not necessarily. You've heard of Leonardo da Vinci, right? He was a famous artist, but he was also a mathematician, engineer and an architect. He had loads of ideas for inventions, but other discoveries had to happen in order for some of his ideas to finally come to life.
Speaker: Like a 3D printer. Look, those kids are now making a model of their ice cream machine.
Speaker: Exactly. Imagine what Leonardo da Vinci could have done if he had a 3D printer. It's one of the greatest innovations of our time.
Speaker: I saw a video where a guy 3D printed a house.
Speaker: Oh yes. These printers can even create body parts.
Speaker: That's incredible.
Speaker: Hey, want to hear a joke? What do you call the guy who invented denim pants?
Speaker: Good guess. He's called a jean-ius. Yes. Get it? Jeans genius.
Speaker: Do only genius kids grow up to become inventors?
Speaker: No, but they need to think differently. They notice problems and find unique ways of solving them. That takes an understanding of how things in the world work. Also, you don't have to be an adult to invent. In fact, the judge who's scoring the projects today invented a product when he was only 12 years old. He saw a problem, came up with an idea, and taught himself how to code in order to develop a prototype.
Speaker: What was his idea?
Speaker: I'll let him tell you that. His name is Alex Deans, and he's standing right over there. Are you ready to meet a real inventor?
Speaker: Oh yes.
Speaker: Hi Alex. I'm with Lingo Kids and we want to find out what it takes to be an inventor. Can we ask some questions?
Speaker: Of course, yes. Go ahead.
Speaker: First of all, tell us how you became an inventor.
Speaker: It's a little hard to say. I've been an inventor for my whole life, but I've only really started creating things since around nine or 10 years old. Before I was nine years old, my parents and my family really encouraged me to go out and solve, and create new things. I went outside. I took things apart to put them back together. I learned how microwaves worked. I learned how toasters worked.
Speaker: What would you say are three things all inventors need?
Speaker: I think inventors need to be really, really curious, and like asking new questions, and looking at things in the world around them and asking, why is it the way it is? I think that's the most important quality of any inventor, because then you start to realize what are the things that are working well, and what are the things that are not working so well. Then what can you improve?
The other two things I think are important are persistence, because when you create something new, it's never going to work the first time. You have to be able to push through all the challenges and the hurdles, and at the end have a success. The last thing is to be open to talking to other people and asking for help, because the big thing I learned is that you're never going to be able to do it by yourself.
Speaker: Really interesting. Later, I hope you can share some tips with our listeners so that they can develop these skills. We also received some excellent questions from our Lingokids listeners.
Speaker: Alex, what was your first invention?
Speaker: When I was nine years old, I started in science fairs in my local town in Windsor, Canada. The first thing I did was I took starch from potatoes, and I extracted it from the potatoes, and I made new type of plastic to old plastic bags. That was my first big type of invention that I did. Then from there, I started creating other new things.
Speaker: How do you create new things? What do you need for it?
Speaker: Actually, when I was starting out inventing somebody said, "Just sit on a blank canvas and an idea will come to you, and then you can do it." I went and sat at that blank canvas and nothing came to me, because I was trying to figure out some new brilliant idea. It just doesn't work like that. You have to know what's out there, and get a sense of that. From talking to other people and reading about other people's work, I think that's what can set you on a new path.
Speaker: Alex, have you ever failed along the way?
Speaker: I have failed so many times, it's not even funny. Every single step of making an invention comes with a failure. The first time that I made my device which helps blind people navigate, it's called iAid. The first time I made it, it didn't work. I took it to the Institute for the Blind here in Canada, and I had them test it, and they were all very kind, but they told me, "You know what? This is not working, and this is not a good invention right now, but it can be made better." As an inventor, you have to hear that and go, "They're not trying to put me down. They're trying to bring the invention and build it up."
Speaker: How did you come up with the idea for iAid?
Speaker: I started this particular invention because of something that was very, very personal to me. I had a experience when I was 12 years old walking around downtown, and I saw a woman who was standing on the corner of the street, and she just wasn't crossing the road. I was watching her, and she just looked really lost and unsure. I went up to her and asked her what the problem was, and if I could help her. Then I realized that she was blind and she was unable to cross the road.
She told me that she had had a guide dog who had just died, and she couldn't get another one. She didn't like using those white canes that you see some people use. I realized there was nothing out there that could really help her. That was my big motivation for going home and starting to tinker and come up with something.
Speaker: Alex how old were you when you invented that device?
Speaker: I was 12 years old when I came up with the idea to make this navigation device, and it took me almost two years to learn how to code and build everything and make my first prototype. I was about 13 and a half or 14 when I had something that worked.
Speaker: You were not afraid of sharing it with other people?
Speaker: At that point, I thought it was the best thing ever. I thought it was the greatest invention ever made. I think that was part of the reason why I went to the Institute for the Blind, because I thought it was so good, and then that put things in perspective, and I realized there were things that could be improved, but the whole process showed me that people are not out to get you. Everybody wants to help. Everybody likes to support what you're doing, and they're willing to give good feedback. You just have to listen to it.
Speaker: Is it true you have met Queen Elizabeth in real life?
Speaker: Yes. I think meeting Queen Elizabeth was one of the things that I'm always going to remember, and how lucky am I to have met her at the end of her life.
Speaker: What was it like?
Speaker: The experience itself was just amazing. I remember the gates of Buckingham Palace opening, and then we drove through, and I had been on the other side of the gates many times, but I never been inside looking around, and seeing everybody looking in was amazing. You can see the whole scale and how huge this whole thing is. Then I went in and there's one main entrance, and I looked to the left and there's this big red staircase going up about three flights, and I walked all the way up that and there's a big hall, and that's where I saw her.
She called my name, I went up and I met her and she was very, very kind, very gracious, we had a conversation about how she had met my grandpa when he was an early doctor there, so it was about 50 years later that I met her. I told her how meaningful that was for my grandpa, and that was one of the coolest days that I will ever have I'm sure.
Speaker: Oh, wow I'm sure too.
Speaker: Alex what can kids do now while they're still growing up to become an inventor?
Speaker: Well I think it's really important to just explore, and explore new things, and don't worry if you're going to be wrong or if you're right, just go with the flow, because at this point nobody cares if it goes really well or if it goes really bad, we just want want you to learn, we want you to pick up new things.
If you have an idea try to talk to somebody who's been in that field, or who does that as a career, and try to just hang out with them and see what their life is like, see how they approach problems and you can start to think like them eventually. I think that's a really cool thing when that happens, but for now just be open to new things, and just try everything, and you can figure out what you want to do later.
Speaker: Thank you Alex, I loved hearing your story.
Speaker: I loved sharing a little bit of my experience, and of course if anybody has an idea, and they want to make it happen, reach out to me in my emails online. I'm very happy to chat and connect you to people who can make your ideas happen, so all the best and keep inventing.
Speaker: We hope you enjoyed this episode of The Growing Up Podcast. Look around, do you see something that could be improved in your world? Maybe with a little creativity you can invent a solution. Tune in next time when we visit a unique invent to help endangered species and meet a real activist.
Speaker: To live a full interactive learning adventure, check out our Lingokids app with tons of games and activities for endless fun.
Speaker: It's so fun to learn what you can be growing up growing up so come and join us, come everyone so we can learn while having lots of fun. It's so fun to learn what you can be, yes it's so fun to learn what you can be growing up, growing up, growing up.