TeachersFirst's Inventors and Inventions Resources

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Invent and Innovate! This collection of reviewed resources from TeachersFirst is selected to help teachers, parents, and students learn about inventors and inventions. Use these resources for science or social studies lessons and activities about innovation and invention, in observance of National Inventors' Day (celebrated on February 11, Thomas Edison's birthday),  or at any time during the school year. Whether you are simply learning about the history of invention or planning a schoolwide Invention Convention, these resources will provide inspiration and project possibilities.

 

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Cyberchase Games Central - PBS

Grades
3 to 6
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A nifty collection of math games, this site also contains lesson plans and follow-up activities to reinforce the math concepts featured in a particular game. Math strategies are cleverly...more
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A nifty collection of math games, this site also contains lesson plans and follow-up activities to reinforce the math concepts featured in a particular game. Math strategies are cleverly disguised as sports challenges, invention making, puzzles, mazes etc. Math topics include patterns, deductive reasoning, budgeting, decimals, negative numbers, place value, elapsed time, measurement, operations, probability, geometry, and more. Start from this teacher page to select the game most appropriate for your students. Requires Flash.

tag(s): puzzles (208)

In the Classroom

Choose a game a month to include on your teacher web page or make available from a shortcut on your classroom computer, correlated to the current topics in your math class.
 This resource requires Adobe Flash.

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Captioner - Flickr Toys

Grades
4 to 12
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This creative page allows you to add captions to photographs you have uploaded or found on an online site such as Flickr. A collection of your own photos uploaded to ...more
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This creative page allows you to add captions to photographs you have uploaded or found on an online site such as Flickr. A collection of your own photos uploaded to Flickr can be used easily.

tag(s): comics and cartoons (74), images (266), photography (160)

In the Classroom

Locate and upload digital image files or an URL for specific images. Navigate the tools of Captioner by following the simple directions. Monitor the "appropriateness" of images available on Flickr/the web. You might want to specify a tag or collection to work from for some classes. Upload your own set of digital images to Flickr ahead of time. Share also by downloading image to your desktop.

Create a captioned sequence to explain a major concept, such as mitosis or narrative patterns. You could also have students create campaign ads, posters of important people, etc. Have an object explain a concept from its point of view (solar panel tells about itself), have a famous person explain his invention or accomplishment, show what a non-verbal creature or object, such as a cell, is thinking.

Check out the Big Huge Labs educator account. Easily pre-register students to avoid creating logins, view and download their creations, and view the site advertisement free. You will find information about the Educator Account here.

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Inventor of the Week - MIT Lemelson Center

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6 to 12
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The Lemelson Center at MIT offers a weekly profile of an inventor - some famous, many less so. If you're doing a unit on scientists, creativity, or economic/industrial growth, this...more
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The Lemelson Center at MIT offers a weekly profile of an inventor - some famous, many less so. If you're doing a unit on scientists, creativity, or economic/industrial growth, this site can help students understand how many advances are the result of small, incremental improvements rather than revolutionary breakthroughs.

tag(s): inventors and inventions (99), scientists (69)

In the Classroom

Use the inventor of the week section as an activator at the beginning of every week in a science or Physics classroom. This could be used as an activator over the interactive whiteboard or as a learning center or station. This could be used every week or before inventive projects, serving as a motivator!

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MAKE Blog: Technology in your own time - MAKE Magazine Readers and Bloggers

Grades
4 to 12
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Follow the blog entries by hands-on experimenters to find both complicated and simple "inventions" you and your students can build. Entries include photographs that bring them to life....more
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Follow the blog entries by hands-on experimenters to find both complicated and simple "inventions" you and your students can build. Entries include photographs that bring them to life. Many may be more sophisticated than you can do in the classroom, but the blog entries explaining how the builder accomplished the task are terrific examples of scientific method and specific scientific concepts or solutions: sound, electricity, light, robotics, etc. The MAKE blog is also an endless source of ideas for classroom projects or science fair investigations.

tag(s): air (163), engineering (125), gifted (96), inventors and inventions (99), robotics (25)

In the Classroom

Choose an entry each month or at the start of a unit/lesson as a real world application of scientific principles you have been or will be studying. What an anticipatory set or activator! Show it on screen in your classroom or link to it from your teacher web page. You could also use this site as an enrichment challenge for your gifted students as you study a concept. Have them search the blog to find a real world application of the principles you are studying.

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Mind of Leonardo - Institute and Museum of the History of Science

Grades
9 to 12
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This companion site to a museum exhibit in Florence, Italy, draws visitors into da Vinci's fascinating thought-processes that established a connection between laws of nature and principles...more
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This companion site to a museum exhibit in Florence, Italy, draws visitors into da Vinci's fascinating thought-processes that established a connection between laws of nature and principles of art. Filled with images of the master's sketches and paintings, accompanying commentary, and video, the site provides an intriguing glimpse into the art-science theme that dominated so many of his works.

tag(s): inventors and inventions (99), leonardo davinci (4), renaissance (34)

In the Classroom

This site is a great find for both history and art history teachers! In either course, use the information and images on this site to help introduce the famous Leonardo. This site has a ton of information for students working on research projects or papers, be sure to add it to your class wiki or web page to allow them to access it both in and out of the classroom.

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Printed Image in the West - Metropolitan Museum of Art

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10 to 12
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Printmaking, a process that predates the invention of movable type, was responsible for moving art beyond the walls of churches and palaces and into the hands of the masses. Trace ...more
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Printmaking, a process that predates the invention of movable type, was responsible for moving art beyond the walls of churches and palaces and into the hands of the masses. Trace the history and techniques of the printed image with this highly visual site that examines early examples of woodcuts, engravings, etchings, lithography, and more.

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Lighting a Revolution - Smithsonian

Grades
5 to 8
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This online exhibition from the National Museum of American History examines the process of invention, breaking it down into five distinct stages. Enter one of the virtual laboratory...more
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This online exhibition from the National Museum of American History examines the process of invention, breaking it down into five distinct stages. Enter one of the virtual laboratory doors to discover the similarities and differences between Edison's 19th century work on the electric lamp and the development of 20th century lighting devices. The site includes links to materials that explain the science and engineering behind electric lighting and the factors used to determine energy efficiency.

tag(s): electricity (88), inventors and inventions (99)

In the Classroom

Use this resource to frame a student invention unit based on the five stages detailed on the site. Focus the invention process on current or future needs brainstormed by students in class.

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Edison Invents - Smithsonian

Grades
3 to 8
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The National Museum of American History created this concentration-based game to help students learn more about Thomas Edison and the impact of his inventions. While most students know...more
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The National Museum of American History created this concentration-based game to help students learn more about Thomas Edison and the impact of his inventions. While most students know about the light bulb and the phonograph, this site peers into the full repertoire of Edison's invention inventory, giving the story of how one man became a sort of national invention hero.

tag(s): inventors and inventions (99)

In the Classroom

This site requires FLASH. Get it from the TeachersFirst Toolbox page.
 This resource requires Adobe Flash.

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Benjamin Franklin: An Extaordinary Life, An Electric Mind - PBS

Grades
7 to 12
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Learn about the colorful life and world of Ben Franklin through this series of eight downloadable lesson plans that explore the statesman's many talents and contributions. Topics include...more
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Learn about the colorful life and world of Ben Franklin through this series of eight downloadable lesson plans that explore the statesman's many talents and contributions. Topics include Poor Richard's Almanack, superstition vs. science, volunteerism and citizenship, colonial "broadsides" and almanacs, the art of invention, and more. Aligned to National Standards.

In the Classroom

Take advantage of the free lesson plans and activities hosted on this site! This would be a great resource for an early American history class, be sure to save it as a favorite on your computer!
 This resource requires PDF reader software like Adobe Acrobat.

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MoOm: The Museum of Online Museums - Coudal Partners

Grades
6 to 12
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You'll be enlightened, amazed, and even mystified by this eclectic collection of online museums that tout the bizarre, the practical, and the mundane. Interspersed among the "traditional'...more
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You'll be enlightened, amazed, and even mystified by this eclectic collection of online museums that tout the bizarre, the practical, and the mundane. Interspersed among the "traditional' exhibits featuring the likes of Van Gogh and Ansel Adams are those covering a dizzying array of interests and obsessions. Check out the Gallery of Stove Burners, Ephemera Now, or the Museum of Norwegian Manhole Covers (we're not kidding). In addition to making some interesting cultural statements, the exhibits provide great ideas and insights for art and photography students.

tag(s): artists (75), inventors and inventions (99), museums (49), trivia (17)

In the Classroom

Select a display that fits your classroom needs and share it on the interactive whiteboard or projector. A lot of the art displays based on the site focus on creativity and the ingenuous of design, easily motivating students to create their own original art pieces.

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Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Aerial Age - Smithsonian

Grades
8 to 12
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This site offers beautiful illustrations, photographs and interactive activities, all designed to acquaint visitors with the challenges and achievements of the Wright Brothers. In...more
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This site offers beautiful illustrations, photographs and interactive activities, all designed to acquaint visitors with the challenges and achievements of the Wright Brothers. In addition to excellent content - organized by topic in timeline format - the site features an artifact gallery and several well-planned classroom activities. An interactive "pitch, roll, and yaw" experiment is coming soon.

tag(s): wright brothers (24)

In the Classroom

Use the images on this site to create a visual discovery activity in your classroom to introduce the topic of the Wright brothers. Select 3-5 of the more powerful images, placing them on separate slides in a Powerpoint, to be displayed over the projector. Have students write down what they observe, predict and infer about each image jotting them down on a graphic organizer. (For help making graphic organizers, try: Graphic Organizer Maker, (reviewed here).) Once the class has gone through all of the images, have a class discussion based on the notes that students took during the process. This activity can be used to introduce or review, in a non-lecture format.

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Leonardo's Studio - BBC

Grades
6 to 8
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What made Leonardo da Vinci's art and science so unique? Perhaps a hands-on exploration of his workshop might reveal some answers. This impressive, interactive site lets visitors prowl...more
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What made Leonardo da Vinci's art and science so unique? Perhaps a hands-on exploration of his workshop might reveal some answers. This impressive, interactive site lets visitors prowl through his virtual studio, furnished with tools and objects that the artist most likely used. Click on each one to learn about them and the world in which Leonardo lived and worked.

tag(s): artists (75), drawing (78), inventors and inventions (99)

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Doodles, Drafts, and Designs - National Museum of American History

Grades
8 to 12
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This site is for the curious student who wants to investigate how some of America's most enduring inventions from the 19th and 20th centuries came to be. Browse through pencil-and-ink...more
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This site is for the curious student who wants to investigate how some of America's most enduring inventions from the 19th and 20th centuries came to be. Browse through pencil-and-ink industrial drawings of shopping carts, Crayola crayons, T-shirts, and more. A useful resource for gaining insight into American culture and the creative process.

tag(s): creativity (109), drawing (78), inventors and inventions (99)

In the Classroom

Use the images on this site to compliment a lecture on the inventions of the 20th century. While the test is interesting, it might be a little much for a class for of lower-level readers. Include the images as a way to capture the simplicity of original designs, and compare the initial plans of these inventions to the mega-products they are today. The images are interesting, particularly the Crayola tests, and will capture kids attention as they are inventions that have impacted their own lives in a big way.

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They Made America - WGBH

Grades
7 to 12
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Although this is a companion site to a PBS mini-series airing in November 2004, the content easily stands alone. Students can investigate the stories of influential "great minds" whose...more
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Although this is a companion site to a PBS mini-series airing in November 2004, the content easily stands alone. Students can investigate the stories of influential "great minds" whose entrepreneurial spirits dramatically affected American industry and culture and then play an NCAA-style "tournament" to isolate the most influential innovator. Information can be accessed via an index, an interactive map of the United States, or a timeline which juxtaposes American innovations and major events in history.

tag(s): inventors and inventions (99), scientists (69)

In the Classroom

Use the free lesson plans and activities offered on this site! Use this site on a projector or interactive whiteboard to discuss and informally assess prior knowledge as you start your study of the Invention Era. This would be helpful for a a US history class.
 This resource requires Adobe Flash.

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The Silk Road - British Library

Grades
9 to 12
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The art and artifacts produced by travelers along this storied trade route are examined in this beautifully designed site. Five distinct themes focus on the lives and experiences of...more
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The art and artifacts produced by travelers along this storied trade route are examined in this beautifully designed site. Five distinct themes focus on the lives and experiences of these ancient people: the invention of printing; languages and scripts; Buddhas and bodhisattvas; games; and astronomy. The student-friendly text and prolific images of manuscripts, artwork, maps, and charts make this a very approachable resource for in-class research.

tag(s): marco polo (5), religions (61)

In the Classroom

Use the learning portion of this site as a learning center or station during a unit on the Silk Road. There is a LOT of content here, so this would probably work best if you selected the sections students can explore to tailor it to your classroom content. To help students review the content, have them recreate a map using a tool such as Mapskip (reviewed here). Students can detail the geography of the silk road, as well as the content of the section they studied.
 This resource requires Adobe Flash.

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Transit of Venus - Exploratorium

Grades
5 to 12
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Astronomical history is about to happen! On June 8, 2004 the planet Venus will cross the face of the sun, an event that has not occurred since 1882. Tune into ...more
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Astronomical history is about to happen! On June 8, 2004 the planet Venus will cross the face of the sun, an event that has not occurred since 1882. Tune into this site to view a live Internet webcast of the transit and an interactive timeline detailing Venus transits throughout history (only six have occurred since the invention of the telescope in the 1600s). Basic information on what a transit it, why it is important, and how to see it is also provided. Be sure to visit the Teacher's Guide for printable handouts and lesson plans aligned to national standards.

tag(s): planets (123), solar system (119)

In the Classroom

Take advantage of the free lesson plans and activities offered within this site in the Teachers Guide! The site can be used for both history and science classrooms. Historians will appreciate the informative timelines and introspective look back, while the content itself is clearly science oriented. Save this site as a favorite on your teacher computer to allow for easy access of the guides.
 This resource requires Adobe Flash.

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Howtoons - Nick Dragotta, Saul Griffith, Ingrid Dragotta, Joost Bonsen

Grades
4 to 10
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Howtoons shows you how to create projects out of ordinary household items. Anyone who likes to construct, to use tools, to draw, to do-it-yourself, and to get active should visit ...more
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Howtoons shows you how to create projects out of ordinary household items. Anyone who likes to construct, to use tools, to draw, to do-it-yourself, and to get active should visit Howtoons. This very cool program narrates in cartoon format the story of a witty, preteen brother and sister who build all sorts of projects to accent the situations they find themselves in. The many projects range in difficulty from creating a trash bag raincoat, to building a Wobbler; a robot that moves using a servo motor. Each narrative starts with a little story, has a list of supplies needed, and gives simple diagrams to follow. They also slip in information such as how the ancient Greeks used drawings to express their ideas, share their history, and record their culture. Howtoons strives to promote safety, inspire creativity, and stress good work habits. Find an interesting project in categories like Animation, Biology, Computing, Communication, Craft, Energy, Engineering, Environment, Fashion, Food, Geometry, Holiday, Math, Music, Play, and Tools. Projects are available online or in PDF format.
This site includes advertising.

tag(s): crafts (41), creativity (109), engineering (125), inventors and inventions (99), multimedia (57)

In the Classroom

Language arts, science, and arts and crafts teachers will find Howtoons invaluable for teaching students to read and follow directions, to use different tools, to work safely while constructing, and even to collaborate. Have small groups of students work on a project together. Once your students have completed the projects, have a mini project fair in your room to show them off. Or, you can have students take pictures of each step, upload the images onto UtellStory, reviewed here. This site allows users to narrate a picture. Or for less adventurous students, create a PowerPoint. Then have them add the directions, and present the UtellStory or PowerPoint and the product to the class. Do you have students who are always finished early? Or reluctant readers? Make Howtoons the "go to" program for them. Have them pick a project, bring in the materials, and build it. They can even present it to the class when finished, and let the class know the pitfalls to avoid.
 This resource requires PDF reader software like Adobe Acrobat.

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The Wright Brothers - Henry Ford Museum

Grades
6 to 12
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Maintained by the Henry Ford Museum, a small site focused on biographies of the Wright Brothers and a time line of their flights. The main Henry Ford Museum site ...more
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Maintained by the Henry Ford Museum, a small site focused on biographies of the Wright Brothers and a time line of their flights. The main Henry Ford Museum site has more information on the historical context of the times in which the Wrights lived.

tag(s): aviation (38), flight (35), wright brothers (24)

In the Classroom

Although it's a short site, this would make a great learning center during a unit on the Wright brothers and the history of flight. Based on the information on the site, have students create "historical heads" about the wright brothers. Simply have students draw the outline of a head, and fill the head with illustrations that represent the achievements and events in the brothers' lives! This would be a great tool to help students review as well as introduce the topic.

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Countdown to Kitty Hawk - Experimental Aviation Association

Grades
6 to 12
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A site maintained by the Experimental Aviation Association and the Ford Motor Company, it is focused on the replication of the "Wright Flyer" the plane flown by the Wright Brothers...more
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A site maintained by the Experimental Aviation Association and the Ford Motor Company, it is focused on the replication of the "Wright Flyer" the plane flown by the Wright Brothers in 1903. Most of the site consists of side by side comparisons between the original Flyer and the 2003 replica. Not as rich as many of the other sites about the Wrights.

tag(s): aviation (38), flight (35), wright brothers (24)

In the Classroom

Use the images on this site to supplement powerpoint lectures and displays about the Wright Brothers. Students can also use this site as a resource for research projects, for images and primary sources.

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Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company

Grades
6 to 12
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Billed as a virtual museum, the site is divided into "wings." There is an enormous amount of information on this site! The History "wing" includes biographies of the ...more
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Billed as a virtual museum, the site is divided into "wings." There is an enormous amount of information on this site! The History "wing" includes biographies of the Wright Brothers, information about the history of flight and some little known facts in an area called "aviation's attic." Along the side are links to music files with music of the early 1900s such as the Wrights might have listened to. The Adventure "wing" looks at models of airplanes and the science of flight, and includes more music files. The "Information Desk" includes news about local Dayton, Ohio commemorations of the centennial of flight. No lesson plans and no areas specifically for educators, but lots of facts and pictures spread out all over the site.

tag(s): aviation (38), flight (35), wright brothers (24)

In the Classroom

Share this site on an interactive whiteboard or projector as an introduction to a lesson on the Wright Brothers and their impact on flight. Then have students explore this site independently or in small groups. Assign each group a "wing" or subsection to read and research with the intent being for them to present their findings to their peers. Have students create a multimedia presentation using UtellStory, reviewed here. This site allows users to narrate a picture. Challenge students to find a photo (legally permitted to be reproduced), and then narrate the photo as if it is a news report that their classmates know virtually nothing about. To find Creative Commons images for student projects (with credit, of course), try PhotoPin, reviewed here. This makes the most sense if the reports and presented chronologically so students can piece together the history of the Wrights brothers.

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