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A new utensil.


We tend to think that inventions, must be complex and sophisticated. Maybe that s something we get from watching TV and the movies. Some of the most useful inventions have been simple, or elegant, like Velcro, zippers, and Post-it[R] notes. Our kitchen utensil drawers are filled with all sorts of great inventions, and now your students will have a chance to develop their own eating utensil. Try this challenge on for size and see what you think.


What could be more recognizable than a simple fork and spoon? Everyone knows how we use these ubiquitous devices. Examine how these utensils have gotten to where they are today. Study their origins. What other modern kitchen utensils have a rich history? Are there modern-day inventors who have greatly added to this store of useful devices for the kitchen?

When microwave ovens came into widespread use, what sorts of inventions soon followed? Who were the inventors associated with this technological flowering? Were they traditional "kitchen tool type inventors" or folks from different walks of life, with perhaps a specific problem they wanted to solve?

The Challenge

Here is a challenge for you. You have just been given an assignment to develop the ultimate lightweight and small camping kit. This kit is to contain a minimum of implements and utensils. One of the unique aspects of this kit design is to invent a device that combines both a fork and a spoon into a single utensil. Here are a few constraints for your design:

* The business end of the fork and spoon must also be at the same end of the new utensil.

* The new invention must not be any longer or shorter than a traditional fork or spoon.

* The end of the fork or spoon may not be detachable (they must coexist at the same end).

* The whole assembly may be made of either plastic or metal, but not a mixture.


How would students likely go about starting this type of design? Who should they approach to gain some perspective for this new utensil? Has anyone else ever tried solving this problem? Are such improved utensils offered in camping books, outdoors magazines, or maybe by the military and military equipment suppliers?

Are there definite advantages to using this kind of utensil? Can students identify them, such as:

* Might be best for eating soups and stews where both liquids and solid food coexist on a plate

* Easier to clean

* Fewer utensils to stock in a kitchen or on camping trips

* Saves time and space for camping trips and in the dining room

* Less costly for restaurants, diners, and caterers ... saves on utensil costs

Can this new utensil be creatively named to give it a "character" that might help facilitate its design? Maybe it should be called a "froon" or a "spork"?

How might students build a mock-up of this utensil and try it out to determine its effectiveness? How about its manufacture? Does your design present any unusual manufacturing procedures or processes? How are forks and spoons made today?

How would campers and kitchen cooks be sold on the idea for a double utensil? What ads, programs, or demonstrations do students envision for introducing this new utensil and making it available for purchase? How would they price the product for sale?

Perhaps it might be worthwhile for students to conduct some marketing surveys to see what kind of reception such a combined utensil would cause. Is there a cafeteria staff in your school that could be asked to comment upon it? Is there a home economics teacher at your school who could take a look at student designs? Maybe parents of the students might like to review what the new utensil designs would look like?


Harry T. Roman recently retired from his engineering job and is the author of a variety of new technology education books. He can be reached via email at
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Title Annotation:Classroom Challenge
Author:Roman, Harry T.
Publication:Technology and Engineering Teacher
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2011
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