The Industrial Revolution Comes to Life "Shark Tank" Style for AP U.S. History Students

The Market Revolution - an innovative period in the early 1800’s - began to thrust people from a predominantly agricultural existence into a more urban lifestyle. Just as the dot-coms were integral to the 1990s, inventions were what made this epoch unique. Without all those soaring, ingenious minds, many of the basic goods and services we use today wouldn't exist. Whether adventurous souls dared to tinker with existing inventions or to dream of something brand-new, one thing's for sure -- the revolution changed the lives of many people.

To deepen their understanding of this exciting time in history, Mrs. Montgomery’s AP U.S. History students conducted their own in-class version of the reality TV show “Shark Tank,” using the most significant inventions of the Industrial Revolution. Students were selected as either members of the Shark Tank investors group or as inventors tasked with making a pitch to sell their products.

The first step was for students to research eight Industrial Revolution inventions, which included Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin and Interchangable Parts, Robert Fulton’s Steamboat, Samuel F.B. Morse’s Telegraph, Cyrus McCormick’s Reaping Machine, Isaac Singer’s Sewing Machine, Samuel Colt’s Revolver, and Crawford W. Long’s Ether Anesthesia. After researching each invention and inventor, student investors came up with two questions per invention to ask each investor, and made a rough plan about how to spend their $10 million investment capital based on equity and ownership percentages. Student Inventors each chose one invention to research thoroughly, and put together a slick pitch to convince the Sharks to invest. These Industrial Revolution era inventors then took to the Shark Tank floor to sell their inventions to their peers.

This entertaining and engaging activity helped to bring the Industrial Revolution to life for deeper learning.