Syllabus of the Invention Class

IPRO-x97-008 Invention Project

3 credit hours, Fall-1999

place: interim IIT Invention Center: 034-E1

times: Friday 2:00-4:00

Instructor: F. Ruiz, MMAE dept.

Office: 234B-E1, phone 567-3212


Optional Textbooks:


This fifth semester of IIT's invention course is now an Inter-Professional Project course, which can be taken by Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors and Graduates in pretty much every major. Its purpose is to teach students about Invention by actually engaging in Invention. The course is structured both as a lecture and as a lab: it is a "studio" course for tech types. We will learn "left-brained" concepts about patents, marketing, new technologies, and more, while using "right brain" thinking processes all the time. Engineering is one of the Arts, and is treated as such in this class.

We have a fine -though small- facility to do all this: the IIT Invention Center. The center is equipped with computers loaded with software, prototyping tools and, naturally, your own workspaces. Access to the Invention Center is possible around the clock. In addition, there is a budget for parts, materials: $200 per student righ off, plus possibly more if some needed parts are really expensive to obtain.

Course Procedures:

The first hour of each class period is devoted to presentations: by students one day and by the instructor and guests on the other. Every student is expected to be able to make a short, informal presentation with a minute's notice.

It is very important for all the students to be present during the times of the studio class, since the main instruction mode is by one-on-one hands-on advising. You may spend additional time at the Invention Center as well.

The grade will be based on the following:

In more detail:

Final letter grades will be assigned according to the following absolute scale:

This is what is expected in each of the items which make up the grade:

Prototypes 1 and 2: they must work as described in the reports or -if operation can only be demonstrated with great expenditure or time investment- at least must show that the idea can work. Mock-ups just showing the outside look of the product are not sufficient.

Report on project #1: must describe the idea as to a potential investor. Therefore, it should equally avoid technical jargon and unsupported claims, while highlighting the advantages of the idea before its competition. It should illustrate how the idea is to be carried into practice and how it will be commercialized, with as much detail as possible. If the prototype has been evaluated by potential clients, mention what you learned from that. Students who already have a clear idea to work on and are familiar with Invention concepts have the option to go directly to the main project. In that case, the first report will be on the main project.

Proposal for project #2: describe your idea to somebody who can give you funds to work on it. Highlight its advantages and its potential. Mention the market impact it might have. A good guideline is to follow the SBIR proposal format (available from Internet).

Report on project #2: This report should have two parts. Part 1 is a technical description of the idea as it would appear in a US. utility patent. Follow that format as closely as possible, including claims. Part 2 is a business and marketing plan, where all the business and legal considerations are collected (they don't belong in a patent). Like in report #1, the idea is to show a potential investor how your invention will make money. Calculating cash flows for a hypothetical venture with some accuracy is a plus. Explain the target market and how your idea can be most successfully launched.

In all reports, it is a good idea to describe your idea as it will be carried out in practice, not as embodied in the prototypes. The prototypes are to be used to perfect your invention, and as illustrations of the idea. They may look very different from the product you envision, if necessary.

As in all IIT courses, all students are expected to abide by the ethical standards of the IIT Policy on Academic Honesty. Intellectual property will be handled differently whether the project is funded by sponsors or not. The IIT Intellectual Property policy applies.

Important deadlines:

These are limit dates, if you are done earlier, you may make your presentation earlier and be done with it.

Project topics:

Project #1(four-week warm-up): a toy or game with a sale price of $15 or less (this means its manufacturing cost must be less than $5, or it won't make money). Individual only.

Project #2: the main project: a patentable technology (new, useful, not obvious) of your own. You may team up with others, but then I will expect a proportionately better quality. If you have a clear idea for the main project since the beginning, you may be able to start on it right away, and then the project will also count as project 1.

Appendix 1: Internet URL's useful to get started:

IBM Patent Database (text and figures):
Access US. Patent Database (USPTO keyword database; it gives abstracts):
STO's Internet Patent Search System (get patent numbers from manual of classification):
Shadow Patent Office (another free patent search engine):
Inventions and Innovations Gateway (links and text files):
InventNET-Inventors Network Home Page (links useful for commercializing):
Don Moyer (founder of the Chicago Inventors' Council: good links and good advice):
Deal Flow (a place where entrepreneurs and venture capital get together)

Appendix 2: some of the seminar topics.