Camp Invention lights up minds |

Camp Invention lights up minds

by Sarah Hauck

A small, blue inflatable wading pool filled with aluminum foil rings, glow sticks and pipe cleaners morphed into the deep, dark depths of the ocean Tuesday as novice inventors tried their hand at deep sea exploration at Camp Invention at Minden Elementary School.

Seventy-six students began exploring the inner workings of inventing, exploring and creating Monday in the 25th week-long interactive summer camp.

"It is really fun," Nolan Peters, 9, said. "I like to build with Legos and I'm very creative with different things so I like this."

This is Nolan's first year at camp invention.

He was waiting to test out his "Submarine Machine's" ability to scoop bioluminescent squid, shrimp and jellyfish out of the water, aided only by a small flashlight, imitating deep ocean exploration, Tuesday.

"We're making things to fish things out from under water," Nolan said holding up his orange, plastic basket, complete with pumpkin pilot duct-taped to the center. "I chose a basket because it will be easier to fish out things this way. I added the pumpkin just because I liked it."

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Before setting out to build their marine exploration machines, students in the Inducted module were introduced to Jacques Cousteau, inventor of one of the first self-contained underwater breathing devices.

All of the Camp Invention modules have challenges that are delivered to the campers via a video message from a well-recognized inventor.

"We learned that he created a scuba diving suit that wasn't as dangerous as the rest," Nolan said.

Accompanied by both high school leadership interns and counselors in training who are either going into seventh or eighth grade, the campers rotated through four different classes or modules a day.

Each module focused on a different challenge and use of the STEM attributes of learning.

Intently snapping together an LED circuit in the hopes of making a fiber optic fringe light up, Xavier Hoffman explained what his creation was.

"If you buy one it can help you read things and give you life powers," the 7-year-old said. "It's called the 'Crystal Collector.' It could actually help millions of people with life and health by helping them get medicine and things."

First through sixth graders worked through classes that aligned withthis year's theme, Illuminate.

Another rookie Camp Invention attendee Xavier was enjoying being creative.

"There's a lot of learning, but there is no math or reading," Xavier said. "It's not like school at all. It's a lot of fun."

While Xavier was working at a tinkering station as part of the Design Studio module, other group members were creating their own inventions out of recycled materials at a table covered in red crinkled raffia, egg carton pieces and plastic bottle caps.

Students are able to work on their own inventions freely, creating in groups or individually and with their own ideas or fueled by an inventor's challenge.

"I love to see what they come up with and how they put their ideas in action with the materials they have," Design Studio leader Kelly McCue said. "They talk about building a super computer and they do their best to build one."

Aside from assisting campers with basic understanding of circuits with AA batteries, LED light bulbs and black and red alligator clipped wires, McCue also leads lessons in how invention works.

"There is a lot of brainstorming going on in here," the University of Reno student said. "We brainstorm ideas for some of the inventor challenges together and discuss the basic workings of a circuit."

Students also take part in a KartWheel module where they complete challenges in groups to earn credits to buy items to create the perfect waterproof cart that will withstand maneuvering an obstacle course.

Any sick printer, computer tower or fax machine is not save at Camp Invention as the final module, I Can Invent, encourages the destruction of these appliances for parts.

Using reverse engineering, campers tear down old office supply to harvest parts for their own video game model.

"Its so much fun to watch kids see their creativity and build all kinds of things," McCue said.

Camp Invention is made possible by the partnership of the National Inventors Hall of Fame and the Douglas County School District and director Lauren Spires.

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