The SCAMPER technique was developed by Bob Eberle. SCAMPER is an acronym for idea-spurring verbs to improve objects or generate ideas. The letters represent the words “substitute,” “combine,” “adapt,” “modify,” “magnify,” “minify,” “put to other uses,” “eliminate,” “rearrange,” and “reverse.” Questions associated with these verbs, as well as examples of objects that illustrate them, are listed below:
Substitute: What can you use instead of the ingredients, materials, objects, places, or methods now used? Vegetarian hot dogs and disposable diapers are examples of products which illustrate substitution.
Combine: Which parts or ideas can you blend together? Televisions with built-in VCRs and musical greeting cards are examples of combinations.
Adapt: What else is like this, what can be copied or imitated? Air fresheners that resemble shells and children’s beds that look like racecars illustrate adapting.
Modify: Can you change an attribute such as color, sound, taste, odor, form, or shape or perhaps add a new twist? Parabolic skis and scented crayons illustrate modifying.
Magnify: Can it be stronger, larger, higher, exaggerated, or more frequent? Extra-strength medicines as well as over-sized sports equipment and televisions are examples of products that have been magnified.
Minify: Can it be smaller, lighter, less frequent or divided? Wrist-band televisions and 12-hour pain relievers are examples of minifying objects.
Put to Other Uses: Can it be used in a way other than how it was intended to be used? Old tires used for fences, swings, and bird feeders, and the development of snowboards illustrate “put to other uses.”
Eliminate: What can you take away or remove? Sodium-free and fat-free foods and cordless telephones are examples of eliminating something.
Rearrange: Can you interchange parts or change the pattern, layout, sequence, or schedule? The new surround sound (360-degree) stereo speakers and vertical paper staplers are examples of rearranging.
Reverse: Can you turn parts backwards, inside out, upside down, or around? Reversible clothing is a classic example of reversing something.
After making children aware of these verbs and how they have been applied to existing objects and products, encourage them to use the SCAMPER verbs to identify new solutions to their problem. For example, a young child looking for a solution for keeping squirrels out of a bird feeder thought of eliminating the pole entirely by attaching the bird feeder to balloons filled with helium, which would enable the feeder to float approximately four feet off the ground.