In Gadget Nation: A Journey through the Eccentric world of Invention, author Steve Greenberg looks at a range of US inventions. Some, he says, "are examples of innovation gone terribly wrong", some a financial success and others "clever ideas which tanked". Each double-page spread (with photos and diagrams) explains why the inventor felt there was a need for the product, the time and money invested in developing the idea into a marketable product, and any IP or marketing issues.
This book would be useful for teachers of Technology, Business Studies and English. The descriptions of product innovation can be linked to various Components in the Technology curriculum – see Technology Online Curriculum Support Strategies for engaging students for suggestions on using the book in teaching Technological Modelling at levels 2/3.
The book has over 100 stories describing why and how the inventors created their products. Students and teachers will enjoy reading about the development of inventions such as the run-away alarm clock, rat zapper, motorised ice-cream cone, talking toilet paper dispenser, bird nappies, lit-up slippers, toilet fish tank and CD eraser.
Ease of use
The book is very readable, and because each story can be read independently students could be asked to consider an invention relevant to what they are studying or which appeals to their particular interests – whether it's the channel surfer, peanut butter mixer, mobile pet water bowl or roadside message board.
Sarah Blenkiron of Dilworth School has used the book when teaching some of the Components with her classes, and says it's fantastic. "I've used it for Technological Modelling, because it's good to look at case studies of how models have actually been manufactured today and some of these products are still going through the modelling stage. I've used some of the examples to show good ideas for functional modelling and prototypes. You can also use it for discussions such as 'Are these fit for purpose?', because some of them are so unique that you wonder how someone came up with the idea. It also links to the Technological Practice strand because you can see the whole process they've gone through. I've found it an invaluable resource for lots of different projects"
Gadget Nation was published by Sterling Publishing in 2008 and is available in hard and soft cover editions. Some public libraries have the book, and it can be ordered online or through book stores.