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Camp Invention brings imagination to life

by Abby Pitman
rcintern@recordcourier.com
Bennett Luna, 8, builds a robot at Camp Invention last year.
Brad Coman file photo | The Record-Courier

The children of invention donned their thinking caps at the seventh annual Camp Invention at Minden Elementary School this week.

The camp is a nonprofit organization that allows kids to explore science and engineering in a nontraditional way.

Camp director and teacher Lauren Spires first heard about the program through a parent of one of her students and decided to host one herself at the school. Volunteers from all over help out the camp.

According to Spires, there weren’t that many options for day camps that kids could attend.

“The one thing I would like to see change is more girls,” she said. “I would like the girls to have a good experience and go back and tell the other girls.”

Right now, the camp has a majority of boys; one of the groups has just two girls in it.

Each year, the camp has a different theme for the groups, so that way, if kids choose to return, the will have new opportunities to explore and invent. The camp is divided into four groups by grade level. The four groups are Super Go, Amplified, Design Studio Morph, and Pinbug.

In the Super Go group, they have to build a prototype of a vehicle that can survive on land, in water and in air.

According to fifth-year teacher William Harvey, what they’re really doing is experimenting with different ways to make it go, and today they will race their prototypes on a course they will build.

In the Amplified group, children focus on the five senses. Wednesday, they were focusing on touch: the kids had to design a bionic glove where they have two challenges. According to the group teacher Elida Diaz, the first is that the glove must be able to go into the Mariana Trench to get a sample of bacteria from a sea cucumber. The second challenge is that they have to go through the coral reef without damaging any coral to get a stinging cell. A couple of the children decided to use steel with hinges to design their glove.

Diaz has been working at Camp Invention for five years.

In the Free Invention room, the kids are on a looser leash when it comes to activities. This is the least structured group designed to push more creativity from them. Each day they watch an inventor who gives them a challenge for the day. According to the group teacher Kelly McCue, they can either work on that, or a project they were working on from the day before. For example, Wednesday the inventor challenged them to come up with an invention that could better people’s lives. The kids all brainstorm and then vote on their favorite, which this time was a car they could tell what to do. However, according to Mccue, each kid comes up with their own idea, like a morphing wheel chair and a smart house were two ideas kids came up with. Another two girls were working on separate projects, one of them was working on a dollhouse and the other was making a UFO.

“We’re trying to figure out something that the UFO could drop,” McCue said.

Two boys were busy creating a car from a cardboard box. According to McCue, the kids love it because they can come up with anything and work on it; this is her first year of camp invention.

The last group is the Pinbug group, this group is actually here every year but with a different theme. According to third year teacher Holly Harvey, campers use recycled items to make a pinball machine, and with each age group it gets more complicated. For the youngest group, it is a simple pinball machine that has a lever that pushes the ball and use their recycled items to create obstacles that their ball bounces off. According Holly, the older group gets to put flippers in their machines where they can flip that ball back up into the course much like a real pinball machine. All of them are made out of cardboard boxes and are decorated by the kids.

“They really work well together and help each other,” Holly said. “It’s a lot of fun for the kids.”

According to Spires, what’s cool is that some of the first students that did camp invention are now interns at the camp and help out the teachers. The camp goes for one week, and at the end of the week the students take home some of the things they invented such as the car, and directions for them to make their own pinball machine as well as the knowledge and experience they have gained throughout the week.