Students & Families

You have the power to make a difference.

The many environmental problems facing our planet today can seem overwhelming. But don’t get down. Get creative.

Welcome to the Invent the Future Challenge, where each year more than 800 middle schoolers take on some of our planet’s biggest problems and invent real solutions.

You’ll get to work with a team, learn new skills, solve problems creatively, and persist through failure — all skills for the future. Your future.

Be a part of the solution. Invent the future.

The current COVID-19 crisis may be keeping you from working on your projects at KID Museum or at school, but the inventing doesn’t have to end! We’ve assembled a “Top 10” list to help you continue your work (should you wish to do so). Also check out the “Real-World Inspiration” at the bottom of the page, which will update each week.

Keep your project going | Real-world inspiration

Top 10 Things to Keep Your Projects Going

The process of invention is not about winning a prize — it’s about creating something with the potential to benefit our community, and maybe even our world. It’s about exploring, problem-solving, learning from failure, and innovating. What environmental problem inspires you to find a solution?

See what problems other inventors have tackled in their quest to solve environmental concerns. Get inspired by real-world solutions!

Once you have picked a problem you want to solve, dig into it! Try to learn as much as you can about the problem, why it's happening, and what has already been done to try to solve it. If solutions already exist, why aren't they working? Try to answer these questions: Where is this happening? What are the causes? Who or what is affected? Why do you care?

It's easy to get lost in a sea of information. After you answer the questions above, try to diagram this information visually. Use Google Slides, photos and images, or just a pencil and paper, to show how one fact leads to another. You might tell a story about how people or animals are impacted by this problem, or lay out the facts you’ve researched to show how they connect.

Getting ideas out of your head and into something visible is a huge step — it helps to clarify your ideas both for yourself and for your teammates. You don't have to be a good artist to create a working sketch. If digital design interests you, check out TinkerCad, a free 3D modeling website. (There are plenty of tutorials on the site to guide you.)

Do you have paper? Tape? What about some recycled boxes, cans, or newspaper? Then you can make a prototype! Using maker skills and household items, build a simple model of your design — and see it come to life! Don’t worry if it’s not perfect, you’ll learn a lot just by building something physical. Want to add some electronics and coding to your invention? Build and simulate your circuit on MakeCode. Use a small piece of cardboard to represent where you would put your Micro:bit on your prototype.

It is HARD to do this work alone. Even though you can't work in person with your team, find a time to video chat to talk about your ideas. If you can't all meet at the same time, try sending videos or voice recordings to each other to update everyone on your work. Divide up next steps, and report back when you're done.

Getting feedback on your ideas is a great way to improve your prototypes. Start by asking those around you at home. Explain your problem and solution, and see if they understand. Ask them if they would use it. Ask if they have any questions about how it works or why it's important. Listen for questions that come up more than once, and be ready for ideas that you hadn't thought of before.

Testing a prototype can be challenging — especially if you are at home with limited resources. However, it can be really useful to think through what might be successful, even if you can't perform a real test. More information coming soon.

So you’ve now gone through ideas, design, prototyping, and testing. It’s time to present your invention! We’re here to help. If you are interested in getting feedback from KID Educators or industry professionals, please email us at:

Real-World Inspiration

Air Ink

Air Ink captures air pollution before it enters the environment and converts it into ink.

“Pollution is nothing but resources we are not harvesting.” This product allows us to see a direct connection between re-using waste like air pollution to create a new product. Most black inks are produced in factories by burning fossil fuels. However, this company captures the fossil fuels that are already being emitted from our cars and engines and recycles that pollution to create useable ink. Watch the video!

Food for Thought

  • Can you think of any other type of waste material that we could recycle or repurpose into a new product?
  • In order to develop Air Ink, researchers had to create a system to capture air pollution as well as purify and treat it.
  • Create a flow chart showing the stages of development for this product and add as much detail as possible to each step.

Invention Inspiration

Looking for some inspiration to help you get started? Here are a few projects that we hope will spark new ideas.
Remember the Challenge asks for prototypes, not necessarily full-sized or fully functioning inventions.

Energy-Saving Streetlight

Energy-Efficient Bottle Car

Trash Collecting Drone

Questions? Call us at 301-897-5437 or email