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Young Inventors Learn to Create through Fun and Exploration

Camp Invention, a nationally recognized summer enrichment camp for kids, launched its second year at Kent ISD on June 16 with an intriguing question: How can machines imitate and utilize movements seen in nature?

This year’s theme, “Morphed!” put 1st-6th grade student campers up to the challenge of discovering and modeling the answer to that question. In five unique modules, each led by a Kent ISD elementary school teacher, students deconstructed a vast array of take-apart items in an effort to reuse and “upcycle” them into new inventions.Campers at the “Super Go” module launch self-powered cars

“The kids are reusing items to make pinball machines and toy racecars using animal skills that help them move,” said Katherine Humphreys, 4th grade Rockford teacher and this year’s director of Camp Invention. “Springs like frog legs, for example.”

Camp Invention, created by the National Inventors Hall of Fame and partnered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the Collegiate Inventors competition, is designed to teach Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) subjects through fun, innovative applications.

The resources for the creations were amassed in two separate rooms of Kent Career Tech Center: the Inventors Supply Room, piled high with cardboard, plastic and all sorts of other recyclables; and the Take-apart Room, strewn with salvaged computer hardware, described by Camp Invention teacher Patti Harju as “machine guts.”

This is Harju’s second year at Camp Invention. Last year’s theme dealt with pollution, she said. This year, she helped the students construct an insect-themed pinball machine, dubbed “Pinbug.”

She said she was glad to see a lot of kids who had returned after last year’s camp, resulting in a full camp of 110 participants. “The best part about Camp Invention is that it allows for kids to explore, and through exploration comes learning,” Harju said.

Inventor Eleanor Martin listens to instructions“And creating stuff,” added Marie Fowler, leader of the “Amplified” module where she taught students about their senses through games and by creating bionic eyes and ears. “Exploring and creating.”

That was the objective, after all. In Kim Urbanski’s module, “Super Go,” the kids set to the difficult task of designing “super vehicles” that can morph to traverse air, land and sea. On Tuesday, they built propellers. On Wednesday, they made pulleys. It was up to the kids to decide which mechanism would work best for their final creations. Early in the camp, the halls of the Tech Center zoomed with little cars propelled by motorized fans.

“It’s great to allow for all this messiness,” Urbanski said, “Messiness that is often frowned upon in public education.”

“It’s a lot like Project Based Learning,” said Aaron Linsley, 5th grade teacher and leader of the module “Energized.” “You don’t get that a lot in schools.” His module provided lessons in exercise, energy, gross motor skills, teamwork and cooperation for the busy inventors.Students let their fan-cars fly down the Tech Center hallway

One of his afternoon students, Liam Reynolds, was full of energy. He gladly shared everything he had learned by Camp Invention’s second day and more. “We learned about our eyes,” he said. “And not to waste water. We played a fun game where we jumped on lily pads. I made a pet robot. I took apart a radio.” He even recalled a little sticker on the radio dated June 1997. He had discovered that even after eighteen years, the old invention had found its way to the camp to be morphed and reinvented into something new.

At the end of camp, the inventors showcased their creations to their parents, and they even got to take some of their own inventions home.

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