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Accidental Inventions DVD: Reviews and Awards

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Accidental Inventions is a finalist in the Telly Awards.
Accidental Inventions was awarded a Bronze Telly for being named a finalist in the History/Biography category.
--Telly Awards

"...the DVD offers interesting mini-documentaries that will inspire, inform, encourage curiosity and prove that anything's possible."
"Dynamite. Velcro. Cellophane. The Post-it Note. Who came up with these wacky ideas? Accidental Inventions explores the origins of some of the most common and useful items in our world, all created in unlikely and unexpected ways. Cellophane was actually a failed tablecloth, for example. The microwave often was discovered when a Hershey bar in a scientist's pocket kept melting. Using historical photos, 3-D graphics, maps, clips and interviews with experts, the DVD offers interesting mini-documentaries that will inspire, inform, encourage curiosity and prove that anything's possible - even when you least expect it."
--Parents' Choice Awards

Professional Reviews

"Highly Recommended." --Video Librarian

Accidental Inventions is full of amazing stories about the haphazard ways in which many things we take for granted--including dynamite, anesthesia, stainless steel, and cellophane--were created by visionaries in pursuit of other outcomes.

Percy Spencer, inventor of the microwave oven, held 225 patents and was resident genius at Raytheon, the company that supplied magnetrons for the U.S. military's radar capabilities in World War II. Noting that magnetrons could melt chocolate and pop popcorn, Spencer designed a 750-pound microwave oven in 1946; it would be another 21 years before a home version was on the market.

Another inventor, Spencer Silver, trying to create a powerful glue came up with a weak one instead--a perfect adhesive for Post-It notes. Similar stories surround the birth of matchsticks, Velcro, and Teflon.

Combining interview clips, dramatic re-enactments, archival photos, and 3-D graphics, Accidental Inventions offers an entertaining and educational look at the genesis of 10 extraordinary inventions. DVD extras include 30 minutes of bonus material about the science behind many of the inventions, as well as a printable teaching guide. Highly recommended.

"...fantastic classroom resource..." --Booklist

What do matches, sticky notes, and microwave ovens have in common? These popular inventions were all discovered accidentally. This fact-filled program introduces 10 such inventions and their creators. Each similarly structured segment lists the invention, inventor, and year of discovery before voice-over narration discusses the circumstances and events that led up to the creation of each.

Historic photographs, video footage, computer-generated graphics, text overlays, and commentaries from knowledgeable professionals add variety while making a case for the significance of each invention. Some segments contain a "learn more" option. DVD extras include a teachers' guide, interactive quiz, and virtual tours.

"Accidental Inventions is an impressively produced and informatively presented DVD." --Midwest Book Review

Accidental Inventions is an impressively produced and informatively presented 84 minute DVD showcasing for students grades 7 and up, just how ten of the world's most popular and influential inventions were created through laboratory or experimental accident.

Unintended consequences of applied science that were to alter the world. Viewers will learn how a cocklebur inspired Velcro; how a laboratory accident created Teflon; how a failed tablecloth would give rise to Cellophane, how stainless steel was quite literally discovered in a scientist's junk pile.

Also included are the stories behind the Microwave, Post-It Notes; Fingerprint Fuming; Matches; Dynamite; and Ether Anesthesia. Enhanced with interviews, historical photos, and 3D graphics, Accidental Inventions is a very strongly recommended addition to school and community library collections -- and an ideal homeschooling curriculum resource for the study of modern technology and invention.

"Science teachers would find this DVD a useful addition to their school's resource collection." --Science Teachers' Association of Ontario

As you spread some peanut butter with a stainless steel knife, before wrapping it in cellophane and slipping it into your reusable lunch bag with the Velcro closing, did you ever wonder how many of the items that you have just used were the result of an accidental invention?

Stainless steel, Velcro and cellophane are only three of the ten accidental inventions described in this interesting and useful DVD. Each of the ten inventions is described in a short 3-4 minute vignette. Many, if not most, of today's students have grown up with the inventions described on the DVD and are unaware of the accidental beginnings of these inventions.

For example, in 1908 Jacques Brandenburger discovered Cellophane. He was a textile engineer who was trying to create a stain resistant tablecloth. He tried several different coatings that were applied to the surface of the textile. One of the coatings peeled off. It was clear, flexible and waterproof. Cellophane was discovered. He had not been successful in creating a stain resistant tablecloth but he had discovered something that would last much longer.

Each of the ten accidental inventions is described using a combination of still photos from the time period and live interviews from current times. The purpose of the initial investigation is outlined or how the work of the inventor was related to the final discovery. Several related pieces of trivia scroll across the bottom of the screen during each episode.

Also included on the DVD is a small multiple choice quiz related to the inventions. There is a teacher's guide on the DVD that can be downloaded and printed from a computer with a DVD drive.

Science teachers would find this DVD a useful addition to their school's resource collection. Secondary schools offering SNC 3M could use this for the unit called Technologies in Everyday Life. Elementary schools could use this for units which ask students to design a product. The DVD clearly demonstrates what could happen when the original idea doesn't work out and how a mind open to new ideas will find them in the most unusual places.

Science Teachers' Association of Ontario

"The general public can also find interesting information on this disc." --Educational Media Reviews Online

Accidental Inventions looks at the creation of 10 products or processes that are in common use today: the microwave oven, the Post-It note, Velcro, stainless steel, developing fingerprints using superglue, strikable matches, Teflon, cellophane, dynamite, and ether anesthesia. What these inventions have in common is that the inventors were not consciously trying to create them, but rather stumbled upon them during the course of failed experiments involving other products, or were inspired to further investigate an unusual phenomenon they happened to notice.

For instance, the origins of cellophane lay in a failed attempt to make a better tablecloth. A scientist working at a defense plant got the idea for a microwave oven when the chocolate bar in his pocket melted from exposure to a magnetron, a microwave-generating tube used in radar. The Post-It note came about when an attempt to create a superglue failed because the glue would stick to only a small contact area rather than an entire surface. The creation of Velcro was inspired by a scientist's study of the cockleburs that had stuck to him and his dog after a walk in a field in Switzerland.

Two areas that were especially interesting, because the stories were less known, were the sections on fingerprint fuming and strikable matches. Fingerprints which are difficult to gather from dusting can be lifted by using a process involving fumes from superglue. Matchsticks originally used white phosphorous, a much more hazardous substance than the red phosphorous currently used. Matchgirls who delivered matches in crates they carried on top of their heads would rapidly lose their hair because of exposure to the white phosphorous. And workers at matchstick plants would frequently die of a mouth cancer called phossy jaw.

A typical instructional style is used to tell the stories. A narrator relates the background and history of the invention, while teachers, scientists, and businesspeople offer more information about the specifics of the product and its importance. Notes frequently appear at the bottom of the screen providing additional facts.

Each invention can be accessed separately through its own menu on the DVD. The individual menus contain bonus material for seven of the 10 sections that provide information on related aspects of the invention discussed. The sections on cellophane, Teflon, and Velcro lack bonus materials.

Also present on the DVD are an interactive quiz covering material presented in the stories and a teacher's guide and historical patents that can be printed from Adobe Acrobat files when the DVD is used in a computer.

This DVD is useful for high school and introductory-level college courses. The general public can also find interesting information on this disc...

"The students were interested in watching the background to all of the inventions, and it encouraged lots of questions, which led to good teaching opportunities." --Derek Collins, The Alberta Science Teacher

Vat19 Productions, a group that makes films for students, such as Rules of the Road, has released a new DVD that will interest science teachers. Accidental Inventions features the story of 10 inventions and how a fortunate discovery, a mistake in the lab or pure luck led to the invention of something that we would find it difficult to do without.

The DVD allows the viewer to either view all 10 or to pick one from the menu. This is great because the stories about matches and Teflon can be incorporated into a chemistry class and the piece of microwave ovens is good for a physics class. The segments include interviews, artwork and animations to illustrate the concepts. Little facts pop up on the screen and are also a very nice touch. Some of the invention sections have extra segments. For example, the invention on anaesthestic offers a short demonstration on how doctors are trained.

I have shown the film to a couple of classes. The students were interested in watching the background to all of the inventions, and it encouraged lots of questions, which led to good teaching opportunities. The narration of the film uses clear language and does not talk down to the students. Scientific jargon is used appropriately.

It is difficult to find strong films for science classes. Many are simply lab demonstrations or lectures on tapes, and many of them bore students.

--Derek Collins, The Alberta Science Teacher

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