Grade 3-5, 6-8

US History: Inventors & Entrepreneurs

Updated: October 10 2019,


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Talk to the adults in your family or neighborhood, and make a list of products or services that were not available when these adults were young, but have become available in their lifetimes. Think about these products. An inventor develops a new product or service, but may not bring it to market. An entrepreneur takes the risk of bringing together resources to bring a good or service to market in hopes of making a profit. The entrepreneur may not have been the inventor.

Task List

In this lesson you will:

  1. Differentiate between invention and entrepreneurship.
  2. Explain that an inventor develops a new good or service, but does not necessarily bring it to market.
  3. Explain that an entrepreneur risks resources (natural, human and capital) to bring a new or improved product or service to market. The entrepreneur may not have invented the product or service.
  4. Explain that profit is the incentive for the entrepreneur.
  5. Give examples of inventions that are no longer used, but are important because they lead to other inventions.
  6. Describe the benefits society gets from inventors and entrepreneurs.


Activity 1: Discussion

Not all inventors are entrepreneurs. Innovation is using an invention in a way that has economic value. This is what is added by an entrepreneur. Talk with your classmates about the possible answers to these questions:

  • Name some inventors.
  • Why do people invent?
  • Name some entrepreneurs, people who did not invent products, but used innovation to bring them to market in a new way.
  • What is the incentive (reward) that entrepreneurs hope for?
  • How do inventors help consumers?

Activity 2: Exploring Entrepreneurs and Inventors

Go to the following sites and find the answers to the questions.

A.  Go to: and burger

  1. Did McDonalds invent the hamburger?
  2. Who had the idea of having McDonalds restaurants everywhere?
  3. What did he risk?

B.  Go to

  1. Who invented the Eskimo Pie?
  2. What problem was he trying to solve?

C. Potato Chip: 1853, Saratoga Springs, New York

  1. Who invented potato chips? soda
  2. Who brought them to market in other places?


  1. Who was the inventor of soda pop?
  2. Was he the inventor of Coca Cola?
  3. Was John Pemberton the one who brought it to market as Coca Cola ?
    (Browse through Coca Cola history by clicking on the “Heritage Timeline”)

Activity 3: Inventors or Entrepreneurs?

Go to the following sites and find the answers the questions below. Remember, inventors design and develop new products and entrepreneurs recognize the opportunities, take the risks of starting new businesses, and accept the challenges. We think of the following people as inventors. Were they also entrepreneurs? Did they bring products to market? How have they changed our lives?


  1. Who invented the airplane?
  2. Did they start an airline for consumers?light bulb

B.  Electric Light Bulb

  1. Who invented the electric light bulb and other electrical products?
  2. What company brought the products to market?


  1. Who invented the telephone?
  2. When?


  1. Who invented the lightning rod?
  2. What else did he invent?

Activity 4: Inventions that Lead to Other Inventions

What inventions did these inventions lead to?

A.  Morse Code

  1. Who invented Morse code?
  2. What previous invention had been developed that made Morse code necessary?


  1. Who invented illustrated song performances?
  2. What is this like today?
  3. What was the incentive for programs of illustrated song performances?

Activity 5: Inventions that Solve Problems

Think of some problems you would like to solve—and some products that would help you in some way. How about a robot to do homework? Write an essay about an invention you might try to create one day to solve a problem and/or become an entrepreneur. In your essay explain the benefits that you might receive from your invention, and the benefits that society might receive. Draw pictures of your invention.

Extension Activity

Below are two web sites about the history of ice cream. Explore them both and try to discover some of the discoveries or inventions related to ice cream, when and where they were made, and who made them.

A Brief History of Ice Cream


View Interactive Activity

  1. People often invent things to solve problems. What was the problem that the ice cream cone solved?
  2. Several people claim to have invented the ice cream cone. Why do you think this happened?
  3. What is a patent? 
  4. Which ice cream products had patents?
  5. Why do you think that an inventor would want a patent?
  6. Why would a government issue patents?
  7. Why was someone willing to pay for a patent on the ice cream freezer?