Leigh Estabrooks leads the expansion of the Lemelson-MIT Program’s invention education programs and initiatives across K-14 in the U.S. Since joining the program in 2006, she expanded IvE from one high school grant initiative, InvenTeams ®, to programs across all grade spans including community college. This expansion included professional development and experiences which changes the way teachers teach and students learn through IvE. Published research on IvE validates the approach to teaching and learning. Invention and Inclusive Innovation was introduced to community colleges in 2021 with a library of resources for both faculty and students. Its buildout continues in California where invention and innovation is seen as a recovery mechanism from the devastating impacts of COVID-19.
With a dearth of research and understanding of invention education, she returned to university and earned her doctorate degree in education while working full-time for LMIT. She focused her qualitative research and dissertation on female teachers of IvE who led teams through the process and, ultimately, to being awarded U.S. patents. One of these teachers has patented with a group of high school students a second time. In total, 13 high school teams Leigh helped guide have been awarded U.S. patents. She had earlier careers in R&D as well as teaching prior to joining LMIT. When working in new product development within R&D groups for Fortune 500 companies, she was introduced to the importance of protecting intellectual property through patents and trademarks. When she transitioned out of corporate and into teaching, she included intellectual property protection in the high school entrepreneurship courses she taught. She brought this experience to the Lemelson-MIT Program and her experiences serve as a foundation for developing invention education. She has not only witnessed, but has also researched IvE’s impact on students who own a problem, seek solutions for beneficiaries, and persistently work through challenges. The invention process allows students, with guidance from teachers, to be engaged with their learning with the ultimate goal of helping others. Steadfastly dedicated to invention education and with a great empathy for the experiences of teachers and students, Leigh revels in the chance to connect people to resources, opportunities, and each other. She is a constant reminder that Inventing is just plain fun!
University of Tennessee at Knoxville Agriculture B.S., 1979
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Business MS., 1993
Northeastern University Education Ed.D., 2016
If you could invent anything, what would it be?
If Leigh could invent anything it would be more young inventors