Students make inventions that address everyday problems

Meneley teacher Cathy Hackler, organizer of the school's annual invention convention, said the event gives students the opportunity to problem solve and look at the world in new ways.

"Students were asked to think about problems in their lives, or in the life of someone they knew, that could be solved with an invention or innovation of an existing product," she said. "They had to think about how to make the world better, and that helped them see the world from different perspectives."

On Nov. 20, about 80 third- to fifth-graders presented their inventions to about 25 judges from the community.

"The students are so excited to share their imagination, ideas and creativity," Hackler said.

Fifth-grader Claire Christopher, 11, swims four times a week with the Douglas Dolfins. She loves swimming, but she hates it when her goggles fog up.

"So I invented the Fog-Free Goggles," she said.

Claire fashioned a lever on the side of her goggles, attaching it to a pair of zip ties above the lenses.

"You move the little bars up and down and they wipe the fog off," she said.

Fourth-grader Dean Cummins, 9, made a model of his idea, the Family Home Trash Chute.

"I came up with the idea watching my mom take out the trash," he said.

His model, made of cardboard and tin foil, showed how a laundry chute-like structure could be built under a kitchen sink and run through the exterior of a house to a trash can outside.

"My mom's sick of taking out the trash, I'm sick of taking out the trash, but with this invention, you won't have to take out the trash any more," Dean said.

Grace Brooks, 8, also had a problem that needed solving. She loves playing fetch with her grandmother's yellow lab, but there's one drawback:

"My arms hurt from throwing the ball so much," she said.

That's why Grace invented Fetch-It, a hand-held ball projector.

"I tried it with the dog once, and he got a little excited," she said.

To make the Fetch-It, Grace loaded a metal spring into an empty tennis ball canister. She cut slits in the sides of the container and ran a peg through the openings, attaching the peg to the spring. To use it, one simply places a tennis ball in the opening, pulls back the peg and releases.

Project judge John Kimpel watched as Grace demonstrated her device in the school gym, sending a tennis ball bouncing across the floor.

"It would be nice if you could use it to pick up the ball because the ball gets so slobbery," he said.

"I was thinking to train the dog to put it back in there," Grace responded.

Douglas County School Board member Keith Roman was also a judge for the event.

"These students have to think these whole things out, and it's really a process," he said. "They have to make changes and revisions, and that requires a great deal of thought, of going beyond and engaging. They no doubt feel good about themselves."

Winners of the competition were announced on Nov. 24.

In third grade, Mikayla Cloney and Andre Barkley took first place for their Coin Cleaner. Orion Laurie and Chatten Fackler took second for Space Vision.

The fourth grade saw a six-way tie for first place: Grace Brooks' Fetch It, Matthew Romanowitz's Traveling Alarm Clock Pillow, Breanna Ross-Dee's Clean-X, Trevor Edis' No Stress Mouse Holder, Casey Lawrence's Lifesaver and Luke Demus' X-Board. Second place went to Mariah Eichhorst's Cozy Canines, Spencer Davidson-Wetzel's Remote Toy Dog, Taryn Allmett's Finger Saver, and Garrett McElroy's Handicapped Checkers. Third place went to Jenelle Bailey's Automatic Book, Hayden Desborough's Super Dog Toy Thrower, Adrian Michel's Magic Strip and Connor Brown's Heat 'Em Up Hot Box.

The fifth grade had three first-place winners: Justin Blaha's Christmas Light Helper, Zach Kellar's Pets Out Plant Protector and Tomas Leitenbauer's Leaf Smasher. Tyeesa Jim took second for Goat Head Be Gone. Breyauna Ahrens-Veuocasovic's Splat No More shared third with Alex Dolan's Automated Geothermal Visor and Sam McCormick's Hot and Dry Gloves.

Onie Sam and Bryonna Beisner's Fabulous Striking Watch took first place for sixth grade. Carmen Shaw took second for the Eazzy Squeezy, and Tony Adkins took third for the Automatic Rake.

Ten of the projects will go on to compete in the Lemelson Young Inventors Challenge in Reno in March.


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