Imagination reigns at Camp Invention

Minden Elementary School was transformed into a playground for the imagination this week as more than 80 elementary school students participated in Camp Invention, a week-long summer day camp created by the National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation.

Recyclable materials lay heaped in the hallways: The raw material with which the children, rotating between five classrooms, indulged their creativity and built myriad projects.

"The students are having a fabulous time and learning a lot of things," said Minden Elementary teacher Lauren Hayes, one of five teachers directing the camp.

In one classroom, students imagined they were trapped on an imaginary planet, named Planet Zak, and had to use problem-solving skills to survive. Teacher Lynne Buckingham explained principles of lift, thrust and air pressure so students could build rockets to escape.

"We have to get off this planet," said Scarselli fourth-grader Gavin Perry.

Students built balloon rockets and sent them flying along string lines stretched across the room.

Across the hall, Pinon Hills first-grader Sam Newsom was taking apart an old VCR. The classroom looked like a laboratory where old electronics (computers, VCRs, tape recorders) were being dissected and analyzed.

"It's really cool and fun," Sam said. "I found lots of screws and gears and big circuit chips."

In another classroom, students learned about the laws of physics so they could perfect their miniature roller coasters. On top of boxes they had built intricate tracks made of foam tubing. Each coaster included a hill, dip and loop. And what better to test each course than a marble.

"Your supporting structures need to be stable," teacher Jill Howe told students before turning them loose.

Ten-year-old Dusty Winter purposely left a gap in his track; his marble jumped over it but was knocked off course further down by a loose piece of tape.

"This is very fun," Dusty said, as he adjusted the load-bearing tape.

Eleven-year-old Taylor Harker fashioned colorful rings around her track and named it Killer Colors.

"Building the roller coaster is my favorite thing," she said.

Gardnerville Elementary School fifth-grader Etienne Lekumberry summed it up best:

"My mom told me she signed me up, and I thought it was going to be boring," he said, "but it's really fun. You invent stuff."

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