It's such a pain to sharpen your pencil, isn't it? And don't you hate it when you can't keep a window clean? Well, cartoonist Rube Goldberg can help you out.

Check out Rube's Simplified Pencil Sharpener or How to Keep Shop Windows Clean

  1. How does Rube's invention sharpen a pencil?
  2. How does Rube keep shop windows clean?
  3. Why do you think Rube's absurdly complex solutions to simple problems never make it to your local stores?
  4. However, people still need ways to sharpen pencils and clean windows. So, how do these tasks get done without Rube's machines?

Part of the answer lies with entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are people who recognize opportunities to develop new products and start new businesses. Although Rube's solutions are admirable, the entrepreneurs behind the development of the electric pencil sharpener and the squeegee had more success with solving those problems.

Invention versus Innovation

When entrepreneurs see an opportunity, they can do one of two things. They can develop either an invention or an innovation. An invention is a new product created by an inventor. When you think of inventions and inventors you probably think of big things like Thomas Edison and the light bulb or Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone. But, little inventions, like the eraser, also play big parts in our lives.

  1. What would you consider the five most important inventions and why?
  2. Why do you consider those inventions important?

Slinky On StairsAn innovation is the introduction of an invention into a use that has economic value. Innovations change how people use preexisting products. You probably innovate in some way almost every day. Have you ever used a piece of gum to hold something together? Or have you ever used sock as a puppet? Well, that's innovation. Some entrepreneurs believe that some innovations will be very popular on the market. Check out the web site below and answer the following questions.


In this lesson you will define entrepreneur, explain the difference between invention and innovation, and determine the skills necessary to be a successful entrepreneur.


 A loose spring on a ship becomes a Slinky

  1. What was the original idea for the Slinky?
  2. What made the Slinky a successful toy?
  3. How did the Slinky entrepreneur make the Slinky successful?
  4. What risks did the Slinky entrepreneur take?
  5. What incentives did the entrepreneur have to make the Slinky successful?


In that toy story, it required a person to develop the idea into a tangible marketable product, something Rube never cared to attempt. The willingness of an entrepreneurs to take a risk on a product depends largely on how successful the entrepreneur believes the product will be. A free market economy encourages entrepreneurship by allowing entrepreneurs the opportunity to make a profit on their ideas.


Check out these Amazing Gadgets and Inventions and see some inventions that these inventors could use an entrepreneur's help in developing.

  1. Do you see any invention there that you would be willing to invest in?
  2. What skills do you need in order to transform an idea into a profitable success?
  3. What risks are involved in putting your product on the market?
  4. How does the free market encourage you to develop your idea?