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News Release
Pathways to Invention National Debut - May 2024 (Photo) - 04/29/24

(Portland, OR – April 2024) The Lemelson Foundation is pleased to announce the national debut of an award-winning documentary that celebrates innovation, curiosity, and resilience. American Public Television (APT) proudly presents Pathways to Invention, a documentary that follows modern inventors of diverse backgrounds and their journeys as they develop life-changing innovations.

Produced by Maaia Mark Productions in association with the Lemelson-MIT Program (and with funding from The Lemelson Foundation, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Engineering, and the University of California at Berkeley), the 60-minute special explores whether inventors are born or made through a series of engaging, up-close profiles while examining the tangible impact they’re making across a variety of disciplines including biotech, medical diagnostics and prosthetics, sustainable agriculture, food production, software development and materials science. The documentary's featured inventors were all recipients of the prestigious Lemelson-MIT Student Prize. The program will premiere in May on PBS stations nationwide, available for streaming in the PBS app and on as well as on WORLD™. A companion website with related learning resources for all ages will launch on May 1st at

PATHWAYS TO INVENTION explores the lives of twelve inventors – overcoming obstacles to achieve success - in cities across the country. Each shares their insightful perspective inspiring audiences to discover their own pathways to realizing their goals. Journeying through the workshops, garages, laboratories, and offices of these entrepreneurs, the film considers what it really means to take “leaps of faith” as the accomplished innovators present a realistic approach of persevering through overwhelming odds and obstacles, taking risks, and inevitably experiencing failures before achieving success and discovering that the essence of invention is collaboration, lifelong learning, and resilience. 

“We all have the power in our minds and hands to shape the world,” said Levi C. Maaia, the film’s director, a former high school educator and co-founder of Maaia Mark Productions with Noah Mark, a veteran showrunner and Executive Producer. “The goal of PATHWAYS TO INVENTION is to inspire others to think about new ways they can create solutions to benefit their own lives and humanity at large.” 

Together, Maaia and Mark have collected more than a dozen awards for the film. At the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards (LAIFFA) in the summer of 2022, it was recognized as the season's best documentary feature; Mark and Maaia as best producers; Maaia as best director of a documentary feature; and, composers Michael Mark and Jon Cobert for best original musical score.

The film seamlessly weaves together the distinctive paths of each inventor working to achieve similarly meaningful results such as:

  • David Moinina Sengeh, Chief Innovation Officer and Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education for the Government of Sierra Leone, who witnessed those around him struggle with ill-fitting prosthetics that were uncomfortable to wear and designed next-generation wearable mechanical interfaces that improve comfort for amputees. 
  • Nicole Black, a materials scientist whose experience growing up as a little girl grappling with hearing loss due to a perforated eardrum led to the groundbreaking formulation of a 3D-printed material – a near-perfect scaffold for the regrowth of human eardrum tissue. 
  • A Fulbright Scholar visiting Uganda, Paige Balcom was inspired to develop a small-scale community recycling process in Gulu employing street-connected, at-risk youth. This supposedly “impossible” initiative was the genesis of Takataka Plastics, where Paige now serves as co-founder and is currently working to expand to five towns across Uganda, and eventually scale to other developing countries.
  • Since becoming obsessed during college with the programmability of living things at a microscopic level, Geoff von Maltzahn has raised hundreds of millions of dollars to date to fund groundbreaking biotech and life sciences research. Through the management of microbes and the DNA programming of organisms big and small, Geoff and his colleagues are focused on eliminating plant pesticides, creating drought-tolerant crops, sequestering carbon, and eliminating disease.

“The key takeaway to keep in mind about the film is that it’s never too late – or too early – to get on the pathway to invention. We are all aware of problems in our daily lives, and we have what it takes to become collaborative problem-solvers and to invent solutions that can make the world a better place,” replies Stephanie Couch, PhD, Executive Director of the Lemelson-MIT Program.

Championing the idea that most inventors do not emulate the storied life of Thomas Edison nor follow the financial trajectory of Elon Musk, PATHWAYS TO INVENTION brings a relatable aspect to the journeys of each inventor. 

“We all are born curious; we all like to study the world. We like to understand it. That’s the innate curiosity that we all have, and sometimes it’s the environmental factors that drive it out of us,” says Josh Siegel, assistant professor at Michigan State University and inventor whose work focuses on designing platforms for collecting and analyzing vehicle data. “Inventing has taught me to be persistent; inventing has taught me to be creative; inventing has taught me to trust myself as I have never trusted myself before. It’s okay to be imperfect, so long as you’re better than you were. We can invent things, we can invent products, we can invent services. We can create new capabilities; we can create new knowledge. But at the end of the day, what we’re really doing is reinventing ourselves.” 

PATHWAYS TO INVENTION will launch nationally in May on public television and WORLD™ as well as will be available for streaming in the PBS app in conjunction with the release of online learning resources for educators, parents, and students at

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About Maaia Mark Productions: Maaia Mark Productions is a Los Angeles-based film and TV production company focused on amplifying the voices of innovative people doing extraordinary things. By addressing systemic issues through individuals’ narratives, Maaia Mark showcases diverse contemporary innovators, artists, designers, and creators. Central to the company’s mission is spotlighting science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) and amplifying voices from historically underrepresented communities. Through engaging storytelling, Maaia Mark Productions aims to connect with a diverse audience, highlighting the social impact and transformative power of creativity and innovation. Learn more at

About Lemelson-MIT: The Lemelson-MIT Program is a national leader in efforts to prepare the next generation of inventors and entrepreneurs. Their work focuses on the expansion of opportunities for people to learn ways inventors find and solve problems that matter to improve lives. Its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion aims to remedy historic inequities among those who develop inventions, protect their intellectual property, and commercialize their creations. Jerome H. Lemelson, one of U.S. history’s most prolific inventors, and his wife Dorothy founded the Lemelson-MIT Program at MIT in 1994. The Lemelson-MIT Program is funded by The Lemelson Foundation and administered by the MIT School of Engineering.

About The Lemelson Foundation: The Lemelson Foundation uses the power of invention to improve lives. Established by prolific U.S. inventor Jerome “Jerry” Lemelson and his wife Dorothy in the early 1990s, and guided today by the Lemelson family, the Foundation believes invention can solve many of the biggest economic, social, and environmental challenges of our time. A private philanthropy located in Portland, Oregon, and operating globally, The Lemelson Foundation has provided over $300 million in grants and other investments to hundreds of organizations around the world. For more information, visit

About American Public Television: American Public Television (APT) is the leading syndicator of high-quality, top-rated programming to the nation’s public television stations. Founded in 1961, APT distributes 250 new program titles per year and more than one-third of the top 100 highest-rated public television titles in the U.S. APT’s diverse catalog includes prominent documentaries, performances, dramas, how-to programs, classic movies, children’s series and news and current affairs programs. Midsomer Murders, America’s Test Kitchen, AfroPoP, Rick Steves’ Europe, Pacific Heartbeat, Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Television, The Indian Doctor, Legacy List with Matt Paxton, Lidia’s Kitchen, Kevin Belton’s New Orleans Kitchen, Simply Ming, The Best of the Joy of Painting with Bob Ross, Front & Center, James Patterson’s Kid Stew and NHK Newsline are a sampling of APT’s programs, considered some of the most popular on public television. APT also licenses programs internationally through its APT Worldwide service and distributes Create®TV — featuring the best of public television’s lifestyle programming — and WORLD™, public television’s premier news, science, and documentary channel. To find out more about APT’s programs and services, visit


Pathways to Invention: website, local listings, and trailer -

Attached Media Files: APT , Lemelson-MIT , Pathways to Invention