Invention at Play





Inventors’ Stories
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John Fabel, Ecotrek Backpack Inventor
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Two-year-old John Fabel trying to assemble the tricycle he got for Christmas


Two-year-old John Fabel trying to assemble the tricycle he got for Christmas



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Fabel and his sister next to the bathtub after testing a boat he designed and built
Fabel and his sister next to the bathtub after testing a boat he designed and built









What Helped Fabel Become An Inventor?

Fabel was trained as a geographer and designer. His work as an inventor intersects environment, community and design.

“I’ve always asked, ‘What if?’ What if I can make this work better, or what if I build this or make that even better?”

“I take a problem and try not to go anywhere in particular with it, but just sort of play.”

“I really think it was the process of playing with things and turning them into new kinds of things that gave me a sense of how things go together. Making, playing, and modifying things over and over not only taught me what’s possible. It also taught me how it’s possible.”

Why was Fabel able to see a connection between suspension bridges and the problem he’d been trying to solve?

“I often make these kind of connections when I’m exercising or playing. At those times, I think my mind is in a kind of floating place. That space lets me see pictures in my head and really design by visualizing.”

“One of my favorite things to do as a kid was to build model cars. But I never built one straight by the instructions. I couldn’t do that. I would think, ‘I wonder what would happen if I put the engine in the back, or if I used different wheels?’ I loved taking things that already existed and making them into new kinds of things.”

“Play exercises our skills at turning things on their heads and thinking about other ways to do things. It puts us in a place where we are more open and relaxed.”

Next: Howard Head, Ski Inventor ›





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