Invention Kit Sequence
The invention kits that are currently under development (kits 1-8 and 15) and planned for future development (kits 9-14) are listed below.
An Age of Discovery: 1800 – 1840
A. Basic Discoveries
- Solenoid Invention Kit
A wire coiled into the shape of a cylinder or tube generates a stronger magnetic field when a current runs through it than a single, straight strand of wire.
- Linear Motor Invention Kit
A solenoid has a positive and negative pole which can be reversed by switching its connection to the power source. Placing a magnet inside the cylinder allows the magnet to be moved inside the solenoid in both directions when the direction of the current is reversed.
- Linear Generator Invention Kit
A linear motor can be transformed into a linear generator by moving the permanent magnet back and forth within the tube of the solenoid, producing alternating current.
B. Electromagnetic Relationships
The three basic discoveries described above laid the foundation for a deeper understanding of relationships found among electromagnetic forces. Since both magnetic fields and electrical currents are not visible, a means of making the invisible visible was needed.
- Galvanometer Invention Kit (Detecting Electricity and Magnetism)
The galvanometer is an instrument that detects the presence of an electrical current by observing its deflection of a magnet. The galvanometer and its successors led to development of Ohm’s Law, which describes the relationship among electrical current (measured in amperes), electrical voltage (measured in volts), and electrical resistance (measured in ohms).
- Edison Meter Invention Kit (Ohms Law)
When Edison installed the world’s first central generating power plant, he needed an instrument that was more robust and reliable than the galvanometer. The same qualities that made the Edison meter useful as the electrical grid was developed also make it useful for our investigations today. It will be used in many of our subsequent Invention Kits.
- Magnetometer Invention Kit (Amperes Law)
An electric meter measures electrical current. A magnetometer measures strength of a magnetic field. Just as Ohms Law describes relationships among electrical forces, Ampere’s Law describes relationships among magnetic forces.
Dawn of Electrical Communications, 1840-1880
The telegraph was the first widely-adopted commercially successful invention to emerge from the discovery of electromagnetic forces. Creating and running the telegraph system that crisscrossed the United States served as an incubator that allowed future inventors such as Edison to gain theoretical knowledge and practical experience in electromagnetism that led to future inventions, including the telephone system.
- Telegraph Invention Kit
In a telegraph system, a telegraph key is depressed in one location, which completes a circuit that causes an armature to be attracted to an electromagnet at another location, creating a clicking sound. The United States had tens of thousands of miles of telegraph wires to form the backbone of these circuits. However, a telegraph signal loses strength as it travels through a wire. A telegraph relay amplifies and regenerates the signal making it possible to create a telegraph system that spanned the nation.
- Telephone Invention Kit
Telephone transmission lines are similar to those of a telegraph. However, instead of communicating with the telegraph’s timed intervals between clicks (short and long transcribed as dots and dashes), the telephone transmitted the human voice.
Age of Power, 1880-1920
Early batteries did not provide sufficient power or longevity for the practical use of electric motors. The disruptive use of electrical motors in manufacturing had to wait until power generation systems transmitted electricity across a power grid. This occurred in 1880 when Edison began construction of the Pearl Street power station in Manhattan.
- Charles Page Electromagnetic Engine
The Charles Page “Electromagnetic Engine” employs two solenoids to move an armature back and forth. Page strived to prove the practicality of the electric motor with his electric locomotive, which failed its public test run in 1851. Page’s career continued untarnished; however, his vision of electric locomotives was not realized for several decades. Later it became the standard.
- Davenport Rotary Motor
The first rotary motor, patented by Thomas Davenport, revolves in a continuous circle. Davenport failed in his ambition of replacing steam power with electrical. He returned to blacksmithing embittered. As Edison and others developed electrical power systems, electrical motor use grew, with most being rotary in operation.
- Edison Dynamo
A dynamo is an electrical generator that produces direct current. In order to transmit power to homes, Edison also created the electrical grid with wires to transmit the electricity, electrical outlets in the home, and electrical meters to monitor use by customers.
- Incandescent Light Bulb
Thomas Edison developed the first commercially practical electric light (U.S. patent 223,898). Edison’s prediction that electricity would become so cheap that “only the rich will burn candles” proved to be true.
Age of Mass Communication / Electronics, 1920-1960
- Vacuum Tube
The incandescent light bulb led to invention of the Audion. This precursor to the vacuum tube developed by Lee de Forest made commercial broadcasting feasible. It also led to the age of modern electronics.
Commercial broadcasting began with a license granted to KDKA in Pittsburg in 1920. Commercial broadcasting was made possible by development of the vacuum tube. Vacuum tube amplifiers were used to power an experimental radio broadcast station that de Forest constructed in 1916. Civilian radio stations were silenced during World War I, but when the war ended, the era of mass broadcasting began. The advent of broadcasting changed society and culture in many ways. Commercial radio provided entertainment for families with leisure time made possible by the new labor-saving devices in their homes. It created a shared national context as the previous night’s radio shows were discussed.
Information Age, 1960-2000
The vacuum tube could be recombined in countless ways to create amplifiers, signal generators, and other electronic devices. This, in turn, gave rise to a new generation of inventors. This provided the infrastructure that led to invention of the transistor and the integrated circuit. This made invention of the modern-day computer feasible, and gave rise to the Information Age.
Age of Making, 2000-
- Computer Controlled Motors
Automation was made possible by computer-controlled motors. Inexpensive computer-controlled motors also made digital fabricators such as 3D printers and laser cutters possible. This, in turn, fueled the current age of making.