In 2001, Doug Scott decided it was time for a career change. Since he was a great athletics coach, a friend asked him if he’d ever considered teaching. Doug shadowed his old high school coach, who was also a math teacher, for two days and liked it. From there, he obtained a Master of Arts in Secondary Education. Today, he heads the Department of Technology and Engineering for Hopkinton Public Schools in Massachusetts and teaches engineering and robotics to students at Hopkinton High School.
Doug is also a master teacher in the Lemelson-MIT Program, which awards grants to schools each year to help students and their teachers use innovation and invention to solve a problem in their community. Doug helps teachers apply for the grant, and he assists them and their students throughout the invention process.
What made Doug decide to apply to attend the USPTO National Summer Teacher Institute (NSTI)? He had a group of students who were working on submitting a patent application. Doug wanted to help them and become more knowledgeable about inventions and patents, and NSTI presented the perfect opportunity.
What Doug Learned
At NSTI, Doug learned about the differences between patents, copyrights, and trademarks and what they protect. He also learned how the USPTO issues and registers patents and trademarks. He found the USPTO staff helpful because of their knowledge of intellectual property (IP) and ideas for how to use that knowledge to bring IP to the classroom. In addition, Doug appreciated being among fellow educators who shared a common interest in bringing something unique to a STEM classroom.
How He Applied the Knowledge
Today, Doug has made what he learned at NSTI a part of his curriculum. He has a complete understanding of the engineering design process and teaches it to his students through a simulation exercise. He instructs his students to see a problem, identify solutions and research existing patents. This makes them aware of what exists and how it has evolved, and it helps them specifically define what they want to invent. It also leads them to take more pride in their work when they realize that no one else has created what they’re envisioning. Through this process, the students learn about patents and the importance of protecting their own IP.
“When you add invention to the mix, it brings something unique for students. When you bring in IP, it makes them think in a different way. When you have a student identify a problem, develop a solution and determine how to protect and market it, it makes them think about the whole innovation and entrepreneurship process.”
Doug wants students to realize that innovation is a process that can be learned. It is not something only for the smartest people or those at research universities. He also wants students to understand that though they are in high school, they can use their ideas and solutions to make a difference. They can conduct research, define their own products, and protect and market them.
In 2014, Doug’s Natick High School Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam filed a patent application for their ice search and rescue vehicle. The team presented their invention to President Obama during the 2014 White House Science Fair. Through Doug’s efforts, that same year, he received the Massachusetts STEM Teacher of the Year Award. In December 2016, the Natick team was issued U.S. patent 9,511,833 B2.
Doug says that NSTI provided precisely what he needed—time to reflect on how he teaches and how he could approach teaching differently. “NSTI is a great way to make yourself a more informed and well-rounded educator, no matter your discipline. You’ll bring new innovation and interest in invention to your students. Students will begin to understand the work that goes into the products they see all around them, the work that goes into it and how to protect their property. What you learn will help your students become better consumers and more productive in their work. If you are interested in developing students into inventors, engineers or scientists, what you learn at the institute will help with that.”