Camp Invention: STEM learning aims to inspire young innovators
BAKERSVILLE – This past week from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. daily, the usually quiet halls of summer at Gouge Elementary were alive with the sounds of 30 elementary students enjoying Camp Invention, a program created by the National Inventors Hall of Fame and hosted by a group of educators from Mitchell County Schools. Students from across the county and surrounding counties registered for the weeklong camp.
The Camp Invention curriculum focuses on creating experiences in the classroom environment that introduce students to real-life problems and challenges them to solve problems using science, engineering, technology and mathematics, or STEM, with hands-on learning. Camp Invention, a program of the National Inventors Hall of Fame in partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, provides a unique experience for children to learn about the importance of intellectual property while exploring, creating and designing. Camp Invention is the only nationally recognized summer program focused on creativity, innovation, real-world problem-solving and the spirit of invention.
Among the many activities offered, campers enjoyed becoming Robotic Pet Vets by using tools, circuitry, biology and physiology to take apart, diagnose and remedy their robotic pets. They evaluated the pH and glucose levels of their robotic dog to mimic medical testing. They dreamed and designed their own smart homes filled with gadgets, LEDs and futuristic technology in the Mod My Mini-Mansion module. They explored and customized their Optibots, which are small self-driving robots that sense changes in light to follow tracks created with Sharpies. Their Optibots were “fueled” by learning about aerial, aquatic and land transportation technology, and their imaginations. They explored what it is like to be a physicist, engineer and entrepreneur and to never give up in Stick To It activities.
“This is our second year hosting the camp in Mitchell County,” said Dana Hollifield, camp director. “Camp Invention is a one-of-a-kind experience for these students. It fosters both their creativity and confidence, while at the same time encouraging an atmosphere of collaboration, teamwork, and just plain fun. It is really gratifying to watch these students grow throughout the week and learn to take risks. They learn to realize that even failures can be learning opportunities in disguise.”
Students were able to take home two working robots they customized, as well as their other inventions and mini-mansions at the end of the week. An Inventor’s Showcase took place the afternoon of Friday, July 27, for parents and visitors to display the students’ creative work and to view a slideshow of the week’s activities.
“I would like to thank everyone who helped to make this camp a success this year,” Hollifield said. “This includes the teachers, student leadership interns (high school/college volunteers) and counselors-in-training (middle school participant/leader), as well as the staff of Gouge Elementary for the use of the facility. It all comes together with everyone’s hard work and dedication. I think we all agree that seeing the faces of these students light up with the pride of their innovations is immensely rewarding.”