Article: Unleashing Creativity :: Smithsonian Lemelson Center
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Paul B. MacCready, AeroVironment, Inc.

A keynote presentation at the Lemelson Center's symposium, "The Inventor and the Innovative Society," November 10, 1995

Curiosity and creativity are genetic characteristics of humans, well demonstrated in pre-school youngsters. Later, the characteristics often atrophy as people adapt to the pressures of structures, inertias, reward systems, and responsibilities associated with schooling and employment. Interactions with this surrounding culture can yield a much more positive result if the individual develops some understanding of the process of creativity, and/or if the culture facilitates and motivates creativity. In other words, the spark of creativity can be smothered or fanned into flame. The potential is genetic and we all have it; its nurturing determines its strength. A framework for exploring various techniques for this fanning, for unleashing creativity, is provided here by the story of the development of a number of dramatic, unusual, low-powered vehicles for land, sea, and air. Motivation, preparation, opportunities, positive attitude, teamwork, fun, daydreaming, perseverance, and luck are among the key factors.

Civilization is in the midst of unprecedented growth. This presents unprecedented opportunity and responsibility. Creativity and the associated invention/innovation and entrepreneurship, benefiting both individuals and society, are essential elements if civilization is to move to a desirable, sustainable condition. Pioneering schools are changing educational methodologies so as to give creativity the high priority it deserves.


This first conference of the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation explores the process and consequences of invention by considering three critical periods of civilization growth, and three renown geniuses who played significant roles in those periods. Leonardo da Vinci coupled art, science, and technology as the Renaissance flourished; around the beginning of the twentieth century Thomas Edison, while producing more U.S. patents than any other inventor, also participated in their practical application, advancing our use of electric power and light, movies, and information technology. Frederick Terman, rather than focusing on his own inventions, became the primary catalyst for the growth of Silicon Valley, dealing creatively with the cultural, economic, and institutional factors that pushed the recent and continuing information technology revolution.
This presentation seeks to explore invention/innovation in the future. This requires considering some broad issues that underlie the three examples, especially the capabilities and motivation of the human mind interacting with the surrounding culture. The exploration also must consider global realities as an era of growth impacts an era of limits. There is much good news/bad news to contemplate. Some bad news is that I am pessimistic about the future; the good news is that I have little confidence in my predictions, and you should have even less.

Let's quickly dispense with the pessimism. Rather than finding some acceptable balance between technology and nature (of which we humans used to be part), the past several centuries have seen an accelerating demise of the natural world because of the supremacy of humans, with their numbers, organization, culture, technologies, and minds. Humans, with their versatility and brains, are the only species immune to the checks and balances to which all other species are subject. The trend to human supremacy cannot be reversed, or even slowed, because of the characteristics inherent in human minds: humans (in our perhaps biased view) are the most important things on earth (the value of other species being a function only of their value to humans); whatever can be developed and sold and used will be; only the short term has high priority; and narrow perspectives, irrationality, and competitiveness are self-organizing positive feedback features of the way human minds, through evolutionary selection pressures, have developed.

The infectious, dynamic excitement of the participants in this conference, especially the passion of the E-Teams, help edge me away from pessimism. There has never been a time of greater change, therefore greater challenge, therefore greater opportunity. And we are improving ways to unleash the creativity of individuals, teams, and institutions to utilize the opportunity effectively and responsibly. Our human minds have the power to let us create a desirable, sustainable world.

Creativity, applicable to every human endeavor, is commonly credited with underlying technological inventions, scientific breakthroughs, ingenious and effective political, business, or social strategies, or outstanding literature, art, dance, or music. Here we narrow the focus to technological invention/innovation for products and procedures capable of improving civilization.

A sequence of unusual vehicles, with which people and teams from my company AeroVironment, Inc.* have been involved, serve as a convenient framework for presenting some personal insights about process and potentials of invention/innovation. Before getting into these specifics, there are two vital topics to treat: the characteristics of the human mind, and the changing aspects of civilization's pressures in a limited earth.

Everyone Was, and Can Be Creative

Watch a 3-5 year old youngster and you see in action a curious, creative inventor, an explorer, a self-motivated scientist/engineer, an artist, a comedian, a remarkable linguist, and, in uncanny skills for manipulating adults, a consummate psychologist. And all this can be relatively independent of IQ and socioeconomic circumstances. As the child acquires skills and knowledge in schools, and later experience as an adult, some narrowing occurs. There are the pressures of conforming to and learning from the surrounding culture, and dealing with the constraints of responsibility and acceptance. In school, and to a considerable extent in society, we are not rewarded for, and therefore not motivated toward, honing these inherent characteristics of curiosity and creativity. Fortunately these characteristics can be unleashed by various means mingling motivation, opportunity, and example with an understanding of how wonderful humans minds are, how they work, and that creativity skills are inherent in us all.

World of Change

Civilization is changing so rapidly that we can scarcely comprehend the rate, or realize that much of the wisdom of the past is irrelevant for the very different future. The change is so great that it represents a qualitative difference, not just a quantitative one. Yesterday we learned valuable lessons from historians; today we may get more valid insights from science fiction writers. Here are several approaches to presenting the change in ways that help us understand our present and near-future situation.

Figure 1: Rapidly Changing Civilization 

Fig. 1 puts global change in your reference system. Various factors that define the present go through 1.0 in 1995. They are followed back 28 years to represent the factors when your parents were your present age, and projected forward 28 years to when your children will be your present age. This is your tiny, two generation, half-century eye-blink slice of time in the 3.5 billion years history of life on earth, about 1/2% of the 10,000 year history of civilization. The curves may not be exact, but are not misleading.

Information technology (capabilities, use, impact) has literally exploded -- growing at the "Moore's Law" rate of doubling every 18 months. The next fastest growth "industry" is number of refugees, up almost ten-fold in the past quarter century -- but I don't know how to extrapolate this dreadful statistic into the future. The upper limit of the capability and use of body-related technology -- transportation, housing, agriculture -- is assumed to double every 30 years. More population has been added than existed at the start of this eye-blink of time (and the rate of consumption of total energy and fossil fuel energy, and the corresponding rate of CO2 emissions, are approximately proportional to population). The earth, incidentally, is not expanding. It is our own limited spaceship, and unlike the case of a conventional space capsule, we live only in the thin, exterior "skin".

Figure 1 focused on human accomplishments, growth, consumption, and all the curves move up rapidly to the right, demonstrating opportunity for business. To complete the future, one could add environmental and limit factors, mostly moving down. The mass of fish in the oceans has been decreasing rapidly -- some species being thoroughly fished out. With managed fishing the present harvest level might just barely be maintained. Without management, we will over-consume this natural capital -- the conventional "tragedy of the commons" where short term competition and greed assures longer term disaster of renewable resources to which everyone has access. The amount of rain forest left, the number of natural species, and acres of arable land all are decreasing in absolute terms, and more so in per capita terms. Taking a short term view from a vantage point of affluence and privilege, we see little to concern us. But pretend you are a galactic explorer viewing the earth from a broader perspective of distance and time, and your assessment changes. Pundits continually say Malthus was wrong, that experience shows civilizations can always grow, and, through science and technology, prosper. But 20 successive breaths into a balloon, each pressuring the balloon to look more beautiful, are no evidence that the balloon will not pop from some future breath. There are limits.

The sky is not the limit: the earth is.

From the non-anthropomorphic standpoint of much of nature, the balloon has already popped. Should humans be seeking a balance between science/technology and nature? That was the issue to which Charles Lindbergh devoted the last half of his life, and to which the Lindbergh Foundation is dedicated. I have found one number that clarifies simply the present balance between nature and civilization. The integrated mass of vertebrate life on land and in the air (not the ocean) -- mice, giraffes, birds, bats, humans, cattle, etc. -- now divides into humans and their livestock and pets (the human-connected element) 97%; the rest, natural animals, 3%. Ten thousand years ago, the 97% was less than 0.1% We civilized humans have won a game we did not realize we were playing. It is a frighteneing thought that now human minds, long on knowledge but short on wisdom and thinking skills, are responsible for the future of life on earth.

Doing More With Less

A necessary, but not sufficient, strategy for achieving a desirable, sustainable world as growth impacts limits is to raise the priority on efficiency and restraint. This is not the principle on which the U.S. was founded, with the Declaration of Independence telling of our rights and to what we are entitled, instead of noting our responsibilities. Now, over two centuries later, we are interdependent with every other country on the globe, and with a fragile global ecosystem and environment.

There are so many opportunities for patents and manufacturing and services to bring rewards to inventors for helping us toward a desirable, sustainable future that a new framework emerges. Rather than inventing to "make a buck", the inventor can develop a societally valuable product or service for an expanding market, and as a consequence still "make a buck". Such inventions are more motivating than the ones that help consume non-replenishable resources, or produce waste and pollutants.

Figure 1 shows that information technology is the epitome of doing more with less. People have pointed out that if car technology had advanced as much over the last 15 years as information technology, a Cadillac would now cost $1. Unfortunately, it would be the size of a walnut, inconvenient for transportation. This introduces the important concept that technologies that connect to information and the human mind can grow fantastically, virtually without limit, but those connected to the transporting and housing of the human body grow slowly, say with a three decade or longer time constant, and there are limits established by the demands and habits of an increasing population on a non-expanding earth.

In the long evolution of life on earth there have been occasional surges, transmuting life to a higher level of sophistication when some new biological feature (usually relating to information being conveyed better over time or space) supported expansion to another limit. These surges have been occurring at shorter and shorter intervals. We're in the midst of one now, dominated by the explosive exponential non-biological growth of information technology. Where will improving computer power, virtual reality, data compression, interactive information handling, etc. be taking us? Will we still be masters of the improving tools that compete with us? Will we still be masters of the tools that are steadily getting smarter? We don't know, and we find riding the change easier than thinking about destinations.

The "doing more with less" vehicles operate on relatively small power. Some are human powered, most are electric (photovoltaic energy and/or battery), one is an electric-human hybrid. Even the vehicles that would be deemed "impractical", compared to competitive ones powered by burning fossil fuel, have special value: the emphasis on efficiency that was forced on their designers generated new insights, attitudes and goals -- all underlying the development of later vehicles that have the potential for commercial viability while putting lesser demands on our resources. A new perspective can be more important than a new product.

Figure 2 shows four pioneering aircraft that do amazing things with very little energy -- actually the replenishable energy of muscle or sunlight.

Figure 2: Some Pioneering Aircraft

The human-powered 1977 Gossamer Condor and 1979 Gossamer Albatross won aviation's largest cash prizes, and thus were practical in a sense, but now with no cash prizes remaining they are impractical. So fragile they should never be flown higher than a safe falling distance, requiring a large hangar, a large flying area, and extremely light winds, they cannot be commercialized. Their value is in changing perceptions about the process of pioneering, about efficiency, about potentials for doing more with less. The 1981 solar-powered Solar Challenger was created as a symbol to show that photovoltaic cells had the potential for being a serious part of our energy future (not for airplaners; the Solar Challenger could not even carry aloft a pilot weighing more than 125 lbs), and to distract us from our irrational addiction to foreign oil that was generating discussion about whether or not the U.S. should go to war to "protect our fossil fuel supply". Its 163 mile flight, at 11,000 feet, from Paris to England solely on the power of sunbeams, did help improve serious discussions about the potentials of renewable power. These human- and solar-powered airplanes led to the 100 foot, solar-powered Pathfinder, that in September 1995 climbed over 50,000 feet. This plane, and flight, constitute milestones toward the projected larger Helios that will incorporate an energy storage system permitting it to remain at 65,000 feet for many months at a time -- a practical, close in, controllable, "non-orbiting satellite" to be used for stratospheric exploration, surveillance, and as a telecommunications relay.

Surface vehicles demonstrate a similar "impractical to practical" story.

Figure 3

Fig. 3 shows a human-powered "Vector" that was pedaled at 58 mph, just a few years after the International Human Powered Vehicle Association was initiated to facilitate ultimate speed records with vehicles unconstrained by rules. Such technology, coupled with the 1977-1981 flying vehicles of Fig. 2, led to the GM Sunraycer, developed by an AeroVironment/GM team, that won the 1987 solar car race across Australia (50% faster than the runner-up vehicle). This vehicle was displayed at the National Museum of American History November 11 for this conference. It is one of five pioneering vehicles created at AeroVironment that have been acquired by the Smithsonian. It proved to be a stepping stone leading to the GM Impact battery-powered car developed by the same AeroVironment/GM team. The Impact, introduced to the public in 1990, served to stimulate the California mandate for introducing zero-emission vehicles in 1998 -- and thereby ignite a virtual feeding frenzy on global developments of electric cars, which in turn has stimulated better systems thinking about vehicle efficiency, alternative fuels and modes of transportation, and more efficient and environmentally attractive approaches to serving people's needs for accessibility. This systems thinking, with the integration of information technology into vehicles and their use, offers the potential for advancing transportation effectiveness at a rate much faster than suggested on Figure 1.

Along the way, surrounding the land and air vehicle developments, there has been a delightful flowering of more way-out devices. To cite a few:

  • A pedaled hydrofoil boat (Flying Fish) that reached 18 mph.
  • Another human-powered hydrofoil (Pogo Foil) that instead of having a water propeller for propulsion used up-and-down bouncing of the rider to generate propulsion through moving the lifting foil up and down -- in effect "flying" on an underwater bird.
  • A wind-propelled vehicle that carries its rider straight downwind faster than the wind.
  • Battery-assisted bicycles (a biological-electrical bionic hybrid).
  • A hamster-powered car, and early experiments toward a hamster-powered airplane.
  • A flying replica of the largest flying creature ever, a 36' pterodactyl -- a lead "actor" in the IMAX film "On the Wing" that contrasted the evolution of natural flight with the development of technological flight.
  • Walk Along Glider toy. This soars continuously on the localized upcurrent you make by pushing a sizable object through the air (analogous to wind blowing upslope against a mountain). Maneuvering the upcurrent lets you maneuver the glider. When teenagers are put in situations conducive to creating (here helping with the human-powered airplane program at a remote airport with some spare time, tools, and materials, and no adults getting in the way), invention is almost inevitable.

Removing Blinders to Unleash Creativity

The 1977 Gossamer Condor program proved to be more appealing to the public than anyone had anticipated, and so I soon found myself at creativity conferences and on the lecture circuit. The most common question was "Why did your team win, when all those teams in England with more people and time and resources produced sophisticated vehicles that did not come close to winning?" I gave this question a great deal of thought, and realized that among the several answers is one of great importance. Each British team had a specialist for every discipline, and so the wing structure was constructed starting from conventional structural design by an excellent structural engineer from the aircraft industry. I have an aerodynamics background that let me set some specifications for how large and light the wing had to be, but I have no background in aircraft wing structure. Thus, in my naiveté, I started from first principles (with some insights left over from building indoor model airplanes in the 50s and hang gliders in the early 70s), pretended I never saw an airplane before, and came up with the Gossamer Condor approach that permitted a 96' span vehicle to weigh only 55-70 lbs. The British engineers also knew about indoor models and hang gliders, but they knew so much about their specialty that an easier approach was not apparent. My naiveté was actually a strength for this pioneering stage of human-powered flight, but thank goodness the wings of airliners on which I spend so much time are designed by professional structural engineers, not by me.

These considerations got me thinking about mental blinders, realizing they are more common than we realize, and in fact are an inherent characteristic of how human brains work. That characteristic had survival value, as human intellects evolved over the last several hundred thousand years to draw the simplest inference from experience. You, I, and everyone have mental blinders, and we perceive things through the narrowing filters that are implanted and strengthened by the culture in which we find ourselves embedded. I was delighted to find that this feature of the brain can be easily understood, and then easily thwarted. There are many gurus in the creativity area, but I am partial to concepts and techniques developed by Dr. Edward de Bono, from England, described in his many books and used in workshops that develop thinking skills.

Creativity is just one element of thinking skills, but an especially valuable element because it is a "buzz word" that helps serve as an attractive "Trojan Horse" to help new concepts of broad thinking and questioning, and seeing all sides of issues, be sneaked past school boards into inertia-ridden school systems. By simple exercises, as enjoyable as recess, in just a few hours students can shed many of their inhibiting habits of thought and become more creative, motivated, and interested in all subjects. Adults can also benefit, although the habits of decades typically makes them slower than youngsters in adapting to new thought patterns. You can use your mind like a Swiss Army knife, consciously selecting the right tool for the task in hand -- daydreaming, focusing, exploring alternatives, examining critically, networking, etc. For creativity there is emphasis on looking at things in unconventional ways. Also, there is emphasis on broadening or eliminating the filters. For example, consider the tyranny of the word "the". When a teacher asks for the solution, that seemingly innocuous word "the" is actually pernicious. It signals that there is a single answer, and thereby puts blinders on the minds of both teacher and student who might otherwise look for many solutions. Language certainly is a tool for facilitating broad thinking, but it can also have an inhibiting effect.

Figure 4 is a conventional list of rules for innovation.

Figure 4: "Rules" for Technological Innovation 

  • Goal - Recognize unmet need; adapt goal to realities
  • Positive attitude - Enthusiasm, motivation, "of course"
  • Capability/Detail - Get deeply involved; welcome assistance
  • Innovate - Lots of approaches; experiment
  • Enlist the subconscious - Daydream to facilitate intuitive leap
  • Make it real - Connect to practical so benefits someone
  • The dominant factor - Persistence, luck, more persistence
  • The final rule: - Don't follow rules

The first item of Figure 4, goal, is very important. In the U.S., and perhaps everywhere, we tend to avoid clarifying the goal, avoid forcing ourselves to write it down succinctly as a simple viewgraph. Instead we mistake strategies for goals, and focus on getting there without ever coming to grip with where "there" is. Sometimes the goal must be changed as one explores practical realities and tradeoffs, and sometimes one first stumbles on a new technology and then searches for a goal. In any event, put it in writing so you can clearly convey it to yourself and others.

Goals also are associated with seeing the big picture, the evolving forest rather than just the local, static trees, and goal affects attitude. Consider the story about two stonemasons in 18th century England being asked why they were assembling stones on a wall. One said "I'm lifting these stones to earn money to feed my family." The other, obviously performing the same action, said "I'm building a cathedral". His broader vision gave him stronger motivation for his job. A positive attitude is almost a prerequisite for invention/innovation. It is inherent in some fortunate people, and, being infectious, then can motivate a whole team.

As to capability at detail, become deeply involved and approach the challenge from expertise -- yours if you are knowledgeable, that of other associates if you need help. The aim is to get the job done, not worry about who helps, or who gets credit.

Regarding innovating, try many ways and, even after a solution arises, look for more (be your own competitor, and also assume there are many bright competitors out there taking different approaches). Recognize that failures are educational and can be valuable stepping stones toward success. Such perspectives are also aspects of attitude.

Daydreaming, mining the subconscious, letting your mind think about what it wants to, is hard to accomplish in a society that increasingly pressures you, by books, TV, newspapers, or your job or family, to respond continuously to outside influence. The only big ideas I ever came up with arose from daydreaming. For the Gossamer Condor program there were two "aha!" moments in 1976 when the subconscious did its job. First was when my subconscious noted an interesting connection between a debt I had acquired (a $100,000 loan I had guaranteed so a friend could start a company that did not succeed), the £50,000 Kremer Prize for human-powered flight offered in 1959, and the fact that the value of the British pound was now exactly $2. The prize equaled the debt! Human-powered flight suddently became attractive, motivating. Solutions I then thought about turned out to be impractical and so I dropped the topic from my conscious priority list. A hobby study on a different topic, comparative observation of the speed and turning radius of various soaring birds, stimulated some thinking about scaling laws for the power per pound of various flying devices, and the subconscious again shouted "aha!", the light bulb of innovation glowed over my head, and the Gossamer aircraft concept emerged.

The "make it real" factor is obvious. An unused idea may delight the inventor but it has no impact on society and yields no substantial reward to anyone. The business side of an invention is usually much more important than the idea, and may require more creative effort. Edison's aphorism that "invention is 2% inspiration and 98% perspiration" is generally valid, the 98% covering both reducing the idea to practice, and then commercializing it.

Figure 5, a quote from an unknown source (someone suggested Calvin Coolidge) emphasizes the special feature of persistence. You have never met a lazy inventor who created a widely used invention.

Figure 5: Press On

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Inventions arrive from many different routes, including factors that the inventor (or a later historian) may not realize exist. So learn about "rules" for invention, but don't slavishly follow them. Just let motivation, a positive attitude, and persistence operate, and inventions will arise. And remember that an explorer doesn't even need good eyesight to discover a new mountain; he/she just has to be the first to investigate a new area.

Some schools welcome and promote creativity, thinking skills, and questioning, but for most people these skills are advanced by hobbies, or a mentor or parent, or involvement in an extracurricular program such as Odyssey of the Mind or competitions established by various invention organizations. The situation is improving, slightly, as more schools, K-12, colleges and universities are incorporating inquiry-based learning, hands-on experiments, and team activities. It is surprising how much these techniques are fought by institutions and people with feet firmly planted in the past, but the dynamic new educational innovators are starting to turn the tide. The E-Team efforts stimulated and coordinated by Hampshire College are an example of effective action on the frontier.

Some Final Comments

A desirable, sustainable world becomes more possible if the U.S. education system could turn out two million rational, proactive, inventors and thinkers each year. Take Benjamin Franklin as a good role model. My personal agenda is to stimulate the revolutionary change by a simple approach that clarifies the goal and then provides a strategy for achieving it:

  • (1) Define the real capabilities desired by society, and desired by the individual, for a graduate of high school, junior college, or university.
  • (2) Quantify these capabilities, these skills; somehow give them a grade.
  • (3) Have major corporations agree that they hire primarily on the basis of these skills, this grade, and publicize the fact that beyond industrial jobs, rewards for individuals and society are also closely related to these skills. Some corporations already do this, ignoring grade point averages to investigate the graduate's interests, breadth, and ability to think.
  • (4) Stand back -- as the educational system redesigns itself to meet the insistent demands of students, parents, and employers for these skills. In other words, induce the broad education establishment to be on the side of change, of thinking skills, of creativity.

Your SAT score quantifies skills with two numbers relating to literacy and numeracy. These numbers, or IQ, or ordinary school grades, all have some value, but more vital for the individual, industry, and society may be the new score from the approach cited above -- call it operacy, thinking skills, or whatever. It deals with motivation, breadth, rationality, questioning, creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, seeing various sides of issues, avoiding gullibility, considering consequences and goals, personal interaction, integrity, respect, empathy, optimism, excitement, enjoyment, even edging toward wisdom -- in other words, effectiveness, passion, and satisfaction in life. We are seeing it in abundance at this conference, which, in treating invention/innovation, in reality is touching these broader aspects. It is not a genetically determined score but rather an assessment of acquired skills -- the essential skills of a world that succeeds.

Item 1 is very complex. Different people will have divergent views, and complete agreement can never be achieved. There are already some sound versions in circulation. The quest for more useful and clearer descriptions will at least stimulate healthy debate. Item 2 will be especially difficult because the essences of the key skills are attitudes and open-ended exploration, not readily quantified by multiple choice or computer interaction. But if we don't at least try assessment/quantification of such capabilities we will certainly not accomplish the task. I have observed some promising approaches. Certain schools even now work with students (individualizing learning to the different ways individuals learn) and with industry in a manner that fits all four points. The E-Teams are a good starting example. My agenda is to make such activities the norm rather than the exception, and have them broaden far beyond the college/university emphasis and the technological innovation/invention emphasis.

To summarize, the goal of the agenda is to strengthen everyone's capabilities in the skills that really matter for enjoyable, productive, and useful lives. No one is being told what to think or do. They are just provided the tools, the intellectual muscles, to be able to decide rationally for themselves, and then to act enjoyably, responsibly, and effectively.

Buckminster Fuller presented our global situation clearly: "There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth, only crew." My special agenda is to empower the crew with the requisite skills for setting and achieving desirable goals. Studying the process of unleashing invention/innovation, an aim of this new Lemelson Center, is vital. Changing policies can unleash creativity by putting priority on new and useful goals. Technology is a tool for achieving goals, not a goal in itself. I am not against technology. After all, it is what made the Titanic the fastest ship of its era. I am certainly not against work on details. The engines were well serviced and the deck chairs nicely arranged. But I am more interested in where the ship (or field, or world) is going -- a vision, articulated -- and how to get there without hitting icebergs.

Inventors deal creatively with reality. In their overall breadth, enthusiasm, and persistence, and their immunity from our cultural and institutional resistance to change, they can offer a value to society far beyond the impact of any specific invention. There has never been a time of greater challenge and greater opportunity. The interactions between education and invention fostered by the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation are a great way to prepare for the start of the next millenium. We can craft a desirable, sustainable world -- and have a ball doing it.

* AeroVironment provides products, services, and developments in environment, alternative energy, and efficient vehicles. The corporate motto is "Doing more with less for fun and profit". Here fun does not mean the ha-ha type; rather it represents the enjoyment and motivation from pioneering in societally valuable subjects. A positive attitude response to a question about whether or not something can be accomplished is "Of course!" or "Yes" or "Let's get started!". Someone asks you if you can speak French. You have a positive attitude and so your answer is "Of course. If 40 million Frenchmen can speak French, I can. I don't know any, but I'll get some tapes and books and learn." Positive expectations by teacher or student can greatly improve success in learning.

All images courtesy Paul MacCready.

Originally published in Fall 1995.

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